Archive for the 'Talks' Category

Enigma 2017 Talk: Classifiers under Attack

Monday, March 6th, 2017

The video for my Enigma 2017 talk, “Classifiers under Attack” is now posted:



The talk focuses on work with Weilin Xu and Yanjun Qi on automatically evading malware classifiers using techniques from genetic programming. (See EvadeML.org for more details and links to code and papers, although some of the work I talked about at Enigma has not yet been published.)

Enigma was an amazing conference – one of the most worthwhile, and definitely the most diverse security/privacy conference I’ve been to in my career, both in terms of where people were coming from (nearly exactly 50% from industry and 50% from academic/government/non-profits), intellectual variety (range of talks from systems and crypto to neuroscience, law, and journalism), and the demographics of the attendees and speakers (not to mention a way-cool stage setup).

The model of having speakers do on-line practice talks with their session was also very valuable (Enigma requires speakers to agree to do three on-line practice talks sessions before the conference, and from what I hear most speakers and sessions did cooperate with this, and it showed in the quality of the sessions) and something I hope other conference will be able to adopt. You actually end up with talks that fit with each other, build of things others present, and avoid unnecessary duplication, as well as, improving all the talks by themselves.

O’Reilly Security 2016: Classifiers Under Attack

Friday, November 4th, 2016

I gave a talk on Weilin Xu’s work (in collaboration with Yanjun Qi) on evading machine learning classifiers at the O’Reilly Security Conference in New York: Classifiers Under Attack, 2 November 2016.

Machine-learning models are popular in security tasks such as malware detection, network intrusion detection, and spam detection. These models can achieve extremely high accuracy on test datasets and are widely used in practice.

However, these results are for particular test datasets. Unlike other fields, security tasks involve adversaries responding to the classifier. For example, attackers may try to generate new malware deliberately designed to evade existing classifiers. This breaks the assumption of machine-learning models that the training data and the operational data share the same data distribution. As a result, it is important to consider attackers’ efforts to disrupt or evade the generated models.

David Evans provides an introduction to the techniques adversaries use to circumvent machine-learning classifiers and presents case studies of machine classifiers under attack. David then outlines methods for automatically predicting the robustness of a classifier when used in an adversarial context and techniques that may be used to harden a classifier to decrease its vulnerability to attackers.



Demystifying the Blockchain Hype

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

I gave a talk introducing the blockchain at a meetup hosted by Willow Tree Apps:
Demystifying the Blockchain Hype, 25 October 2016.

Over the past few years, explosive growth in cryptocurrencies (especially Bitcoin), has led to tremendous excitement about blockchains as a powerful tool for just about everything. Without assuming anyprevious background in cryptography, I’ll explain the cryptographic and networking technologies that make blockchains possible, explain why people are so excited about blockchains, but why you shouldn’t believe everything you hear about them.

The slides are below (I believe a recording will also be available soon).



FTC Visit

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

Great to visit our former student Joseph Calandrino at the Federal Trade Commission in DC, where he is now a Research Director.

Denis Nekipelov and I gave a joint talk there about using secure multi-party computation techniques to enable data analyses across sensitive, divided data sets in the room where the FTC commissioners meet.



Denis Nekipelov, Joseph Calandrino, David Evans, Devesh Ravel

ShanghaiTech Symposium

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

I went to Shanghai for the ShanghaiTech Symposium on Information Science and Technology. ShanghaiTech was only founded three years ago, but has made tremendous progress and recruited a talented group of faculty and students.


Zheng Zhang and Haibo Chen

Hao Bai

For the Symposium, I presented a tutorial introduction to secure multi-party computation (focused towards systems researchers), and an invited talk on Memory for Data-Oblivious Computation. Was a special honor to be able to speak about MPC applications build using Yao’s protocol following Andrew Yao’s opening keynote.

Thanks a bunch to Hao Chen for inviting me to the Symposium!

Aarhus Workshop on Theory and Practice of Secure Multiparty Computation

Sunday, June 5th, 2016

I’m back from the Workshop on Theory and Practice of Secure Multiparty Computation are Aarhus University in Denmark. Aarhus is a great city for biking – you can rent bikes (with trailers for children), and bike down the coast from the old city, past the beach, and to the countryside, all on a bikes-only roadway.

Highlight of the workshop was unquestionably the musical performance by Ivan Damgård, Claudio Orlandi, and Marcel Keller:



I gave a talk on circuit structures and Square-Root ORAM:

abhi shelat also presented on Jack Doerner’s work on private stable matching.





After the workshop, we had a family visit to Legoland (about an hour by train and bus from Aarhus). Photo albums: Aarhus, Legoland.

Summer School at Notre Dame

Friday, May 13th, 2016

I presented two tutorials on oblivious computation at Notre Dame’s Summer School on Secure and Oblivious Computation and Outsourcing. SRG PhD Yan Huang, now at Indiana University, was one of the other tutorial presenters. I also learned a lot about verifiable computation and argument systems from Justin Thaler. Thanks to Marina Blanton for organizing a great summer school!

Slides for my tutorials on garbling techniques and memory for data oblivious computation are below.




NDSS Talk: Automatically Evading Classifiers (including Gmail’s)

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

Weilin Xu presented his work on Automatically Evading Classifiers today at the Network and Distributed Systems Security Symposium in San Diego, CA (co-advised by Yanjun Qi and myself). The work demonstrates an automated approach for finding evasive variants of malicious PDF files using genetic programming techniques. Starting with a malicious seed file (that is, a PDF file with the intended malicious behavior, but that is correctly classified as malicious by the target classifier), it heuristically searches for an evasive variant that preserves the malicious behavior of the seed sample but is now classified as benign. The method automatically found an evasive variant for every seed in our test set of 500 malicious PDFs for both of the target classifiers used in the experiment (PDFrate and Hidost).

Slides from the talk are below, the full paper and code is available on the EvadeML.org website.

In addition to the results in the paper, Weilin found some new results examining gmail’s PDF malware classifier. We had hoped the classifier used by gmail would be substantially better than what we found in the research prototype classifiers used in the original experiments, and the initial cross-evasion experiments supported this. Of the 500 evasive variants found for Hidost in the original experiment, 387 were also evasive variants against PDFrate, but only 3 of them were evasive variants against Gmail’s classifier.

From those 3, and some other manual tests, however, Weilin was able to find two very simple transformations (any change to JavaScript such as adding a variable declaration, and adding padding to the file) that are effective at finding evasive variants for 47% of the seeds.




The response we got from Google about this was somewhat disappointing (and very inconsistent with my all previous experiences raising security issues to Google):



Its true, of course, that any kind of static program analysis is theoretically impossible to do perfectly. But, that doesn’t mean the dominant email provider shouldn’t be trying to do better to detect one of the main vectors for malware distribution today (and there are, we believe, many fairly straightforward and inexpensive things that could be done to do dramatically better than what Gmail is doing today).

The other new result in the talk that isn’t in the paper is the impact of adjusting the target classifier threshold. The search for evasive variants can succeed even at lower thresholds for defining maliciousness (as shown in the slide below, finding evasive variants against PDFrate at the 0.25 maliciousness threshold).



Latest from Karsten Nohl: POS Security

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

Karsten Nohl (PhD 2009) presented his work (with Fabian Bräunlein and Philipp Maier) on vulnerabilities in payment protocols (the ones studied are widely used in Germany but not in other countries) at the Chaos Communications Congress on December 27.

The work has been widely covered in the press recently. Here are a few sample articles:

- Watch infosec bods swipe PINs, magstripe data from card readers live on stage, The Register, 30 Dec 2015. (I trust the use of “bods” here is some kind of Britishism, not what it means in American.)

Now let’s look at Poseidon: a crook can buy a Poseidon payment terminal from the internet, and configure it to pretend to be a particular merchant’s systems. To do this, you need three bits of information, which are trivial to obtain…. Now you can perform arbitrary refunds, drawing money from the store’s funds. As there is no interruption to a merchant’s service, the seller will be none the wiser until he or she audits their finances. … German banks have shrugged off their research as merely “theoretical.”

- Payment system security is hilariously bad, BoingBoing (Cory Doctorow), 29 Dec 2015.

- Worries over German retail payments risks, Reuters, 23 December 2015.

A top cyber security researcher has warned German banks that their retail payment systems have security flaws that could allow fraudsters to steal payment card PIN codes, create fake cards or siphon funds from customer or merchant accounts.
Karsten Nohl, who is credited with revealing major security threats in mobile phones, automobiles, security cards and thumb-sized USB drives, told Reuters he has found critical weaknesses in software that runs retail point-of-sale terminals in Germany.

Trick or Treat?: Bitcoin for Non-Believers, Cryptocurrencies for Cypherpunks

Sunday, November 8th, 2015

I gave a talk at Johns Hopkins University for the DC-Area Crypto Day focused on cryptocurrencies: Trick or Treat?: Bitcoin for Non-Believers, Cryptocurrencies for Cypherpunks.



Video of the Entire Workshop

Great to include two recent alums, Alex Kuck and Nick Skelsey at the end of my talk. They talks about progress with Ombuds, a platform for free speech built on the blockchain.




Download slides: [PPTX (35 MB), PDF (4-up, 34MB)]