Faculty Candidate Seminar

Safeguarding Users from Adversarial Networks

Roya EnsafiPost DocPrinceton

ISPs and governments are increasingly interfering with users' online activities, through behaviors that range from censorship and surveillance to content injection, traffic throttling, and violations of net neutrality. My research aims to safeguard users from network interference by building tools to measure, understand, and defend against it. In this talk I will present Spooky Scan, a measurement technique based on TCP/IP side channels that remotely detects specific types of interference almost anywhere on the Internet. In contrast to previous approaches"”which rely on volunteers in censored regions to deploy custom hardware or software"”Spooky Scan achieves significantly better coverage, lower costs, and reduced risk to volunteers. I am working to deploy Spooky Scan and related techniques in Censored Planet, a system for continuously monitoring global Internet censorship.

I will also describe two studies on the Great Firewall of China (GFW). The first study explores how the GFW finds hidden circumvention tools; the second discovered a new packet injection attack carried out by the GFW. These studies can ultimately inform public policy discussions and improve censorship circumvention tools. By uncovering network interference, we can hold ISPs, governments, and other network intermediaries accountable, and develop better technical approaches for keeping users safe.
Roya Ensafi is a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University. Her research focuses on security and privacy, with an emphasis on designing techniques and systems to protect users from hostile networks. She won the 2016 Applied Networking Research Prize from the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) for her research on the Great Firewall of China. While earning her Ph.D. at the University of New Mexico, she received the Ph.D. Dissertation Distinction Award, Best Graduate Student Mentor Award, and Sigma Xi Research Excellence Award. She is a native of Birjand, Iran and enjoys climbing, biking, and basketball.

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