CSE Speaker Series – Dr. Jed Crandall

On Friday, March 24, 2017 at 11:00 am in Cramer 221, Dr. Jed Crandall of UNM will give a talk on Collecting “Big Data” to Understand the Impact of Global Internet Censorship and Surveillance.

Censorship and surveillance on the Internet is a global phenomena with
far-reaching and transformative effects on society, yet research on this
phenomena is still very nascent and is limited in scope (e.g., to a single
country or a short timeframe). Important questions go unanswered. For
example, how commonly are support websites made inaccessible to at-risk
populations (such as domestic abuse victims) because they are mis-categorized
as pornography? What role do software and Internet media companies, either
intentionally or unwittingly, play in state surveillance in various parts of
the world? Who decides which keywords trigger censorship or surveillance in
different market segments for different countries? How are the national-scale
firewalls that limit Internet traffic evolving?

Longitudinal datasets that are global in scope are needed to truly understand
the impact and nature of Internet censorship and surveillance, but how do you
collect large data sets about a phenomena that is clouded in secrecy? In this
talk I’ll discuss two research thrusts that my group is pioneering that each
have the potential to scale to truly “big data”.

One research thrust is TCP/IP side channels, where it’s possible to measure
conditions about the Internet between any two points in the world without
having any infrastructure at either point or in between. In other words, using
a single Linux machine here in North America, we can, for example, determine if
an IP address in Zimbabwe can communicate with another IP address in Saudi
Arabia or if a firewall restricts their communications. It sounds like magic,
but I’ll explain how this is made possible through spoofed return IP addresses
and careful monitoring of remote machines’ network stack state. Our goal is to
measure Internet censorship everywhere, all the time.

The second research thrust is reverse engineering. We are collaborating with
the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto to reverse engineer closed-source
software and reveal its secrets. Some companies implement censorship and
surveillance within their software, while others make claims about privacy and
cryptography that aren’t true and thereby put the communications of
journalists, activists, ethnic minorities, and many others at risk. The large
amount of software that’s out there and is being used by at-risk populations
makes this an essentially “big data” problem.

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