Faculty Candidate Seminar

Looking Past the Abstractions: Characterizing Information Flow in Real-World Systems

Pubali DattaPh.D. CandidateUniversity of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
3725 Beyster BuildingMap

Zoom link for remote participants, passcode:  279627

Abstractions have proven essential for us to manage computing systems that are constantly growing in size and complexity. However, as core design primitives are obscured, these abstractions can also engender new security challenges. My research investigates these abstractions and the underlying core functionalities to identify the implicit flow violations in modern computing systems.
In this talk, I will detail my efforts in characterizing flow violations, investigating attacks leveraging them, and defending against them. I will first describe how the “stateless” abstraction of serverless computing platforms masks a reality in which functions are cached in memory for long periods of time, enabling attackers to gain quasi-persistence and how such attacks can be investigated through building serverless-aware provenance collection mechanisms. Then I will further discuss how IoT automation platforms abstract the underlying information flows among rules installed within a smart home. I will present my findings on modeling and discovering inter-rule flow violations through building an information flow graph for smart homes. These efforts demonstrate how practical and widely deployable secure systems can be built through understanding the requirements of systems as well as identifying the root cause of violations of these requirements.
Pubali Datta is a PhD candidate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where she is advised by Professor Adam Bates in the study of system security and privacy. Pubali has conducted research on a variety of security topics, including serverless cloud security, IoT security, system auditing and provenance. Her dissertation is in the area of serverless cloud security, particularly in designing information flow control, access control and auditing mechanisms for serverless platforms. She was selected as an EECS Rising Star in 2020 and was invited to talk at Rising Stars in Computer Science talk series in 2022. Pubali has participated in graduate internships at Samsung Research America, SRI International and VMware. She will earn her Ph.D in Computer Science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in the Spring of 2023.


Cindy Estell

Student Host

Elisa Tsai

Faculty Host

Atul Prakash