Title: The Battle for Control of Online Communications
Speaker: Nick Feamster, Georgia Tech
The Internet offers users many opportunities for communicating and exchanging ideas, but emerging threats---ranging from message abuse to censorship---have put free and open communication at risk. For example, recent estimates suggest that spam constitutes about 95% of all email traffic; hundreds of thousands of online scam domains emerge every day; online social networks may be used to spread propaganda; and more than 60 countries around the world perform some form of censorship on Internet traffic. In this talk, I will discuss approaches we have developed to combating these threats, in an effort to preserve free and open communication on the Internet. I will first discuss a 13-month study of the network-level behavior of spammers, and present SNARE, a spam filtering system we developed that classifies email messages based on the network-level traffic characteristics email, rather than the contents of the email messages (how the messages are sent, rather than what is in them). The features that SNARE uses can classify a spammer on the first packet received from that sender, without even receiving the message. In the second part of the talk, I will turn to the emerging threats of censorship and information control. I will describe the extent and nature of problems involving both censorship and information manipulation and control, and the approaches we are taking to both monitoring and circumventing attempts to restrict and manipulate access to online information.
Nick Feamster is an associate professor in the College of Computing at Georgia Tech. He received his Ph.D. in Computer science from MIT in 2005, and his S.B. and M.Eng. degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT in 2000 and 2001, respectively. His research focuses on many aspects of computer networking and networked systems, including the design, measurement, and analysis of network routing protocols, network operations and security, and anonymous communication systems. In December 2008, he received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for his contributions to cybersecurity, notably spam filtering. His honors include the Technology Review 35 "Top Young Innovavors Under 35" award, a Sloan Research Fellowship, the NSF CAREER award, the IBM Faculty Fellowship, and award papers at SIGCOMM 2006 (network-level behavior of spammers), the NSDI 2005 conference (fault detection in router configuration), Usenix Security 2002 (circumventing web censorship using Infranet), and Usenix Security 2001 (web cookie analysis).