Alumni Gathering at the Computer History Museum

For NYU Community

Polytechnic Alumni  and Parents are invited to join Professor Keith Ross, Department Head and Leonard J. Shustek Chair for Computer Science, for a special gathering in Mountain View, CA. 

"The Internet is Even Less Private than You Think"

Presentation Abstract:
It is well known that cellular service providers are capable of tracking and logging our whereabouts. In this talk we are not concerned about whether large brand-name companies can track our mobility, but instead about whether a hacker with modest financial resources operating from his or her home can periodically determine the location of a targeted-identified Internet user? For example, can a hacker in Lithuania track the whereabouts of a politician in the United States, and then blackmail the politician upon discovering he is in Argentina when he is supposedly hiking in the Appalachians? We show how P2P communication systems, such as Skype, can be exploited to not only track a user’s locations but also his P2P file-sharing behavior  (e.g., in BitTorrent or eMule). We also show how an attacker can scale these attacks to track tens of thousands of users simultaneously.

In related research, we will discuss whether a hacker can extract private information from an online social network. For example,  most people consider age as private information since less than 2% of Facebook users make their ages available to the general public.  We consider whether a hacker can determine the approximate age  of a large community of Facebook users, for example, for all the Facebook users in New York City. We show that machine learning techniques customized for social networks can be used to estimate age with a high level of accuracy.

The Computer History Museum, which recently unveiled a $19 million overhaul, is the world’s leading institution exploring the history of computing and its ongoing impact on society.  For 35 years the museum has been home to the largest international collection of computing artifacts in the world, encompassing computer hardware, software, documentation, ephemera, photographs and moving images.

Prior to the presentation and reception, alumni and guests will have the opportunity to visit the museum's newest exhibit, “Revolution:  The First 2,000 Years of Computing”, which includes items such as the first disk drive, IBM’s hulking RAMAC from 1956, Apple’s early personal computers and the first arcade video game.