Geetanjali Agarwal successfully defended her MSCS thesis on image recognition

My student Geetanjali (Geet) Agarwal defended her masters thesis titled Aneka – Wavelet Image Hashing Algorithm, see announcement, where the contribution is a framework of hashing algorithms for image recognition. This important work is done in collaboration with the SoCal High Technology Task Force (HTTF). Geet deployed the AWS to accomplish her results, including EC2 instances and MySQL databases used to run experiments on thousands of images. Geet’s thesis will be available after the final draft is ready.

Giving a talk on Computer Science at CI to the RDP-21 group on Nov 6 at 7:30am

On November 6, 2018, at 7:30am, I am giving a talk to the Regional Defense Partnership for the 21st Century (RDP-21) on Computer Science at CI. Here is the meeting location.

Voyager: an implementation of a tracking pixel

Voyager is a software that implements what is called an invisible bit (aka, a tracking bit), that can be used to track certain activities. Voyager deploys the AWS network infrastructure, and its Data Base, the Relational Database Service (RDS). Voyager has been implemented at CI by a group of Computer Science students, as a Research & Development project for the HTTF. From AWS website:

Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) makes it easy to set up, operate, and scale a relational database in the cloud. It provides cost-efficient and resizable capacity while automating time-consuming administration tasks such as hardware provisioning, database setup, patching and backups. It frees you to focus on your applications so you can give them the fast performance, high availability, security and compatibility they need.

For this project, we are also using the following tools: EC2, S3 and Route 53.

US weapons systems can be easily hacked

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found “mission-critical” cyber-vulnerabilities in nearly all weapons systems tested between 2012 and 2017.That includes the newest F-35 jet as well as missile systems.

Pentagon officials had no immediate response to the 50-page report from the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The committee’s members expressed concerns about how protected weapon systems were against cyber-attacks.

Source: US weapons systems can be ‘easily hacked’ – BBC News

Using AWS on a project in collaboration with SoCal HTTF to decrypt a password

Anyone working in the field of Digital Forensics is aware that a substantial portion of time is dedicated to reverse engineering passwords. That is, in most cases a digital forensics investigator receives a password-protected handheld device, or a laptop with an encrypted hard disk, or a Microsoft Word document which has been password protected.

It is then the task of the investigator to try to retrieve the evidence, and that in turns requires reverse engineering the password; in some cases this can be achieved by recovering the hash of the password, which is stored somewhere (the locations are often known) on the device’s memory.

In order to obtain the password from the hash, we have to run a brute-force search algorithm that guesses passwords (the guesses can be more or less educated, depending on what is known about the case). Sometimes we get lucky. There are two programs that are used extensively for this purpose: John the Ripper and hashcat.

As we have been studying methods for recovering passwords from hashes, we have been using AWS EC2 instances in order to run experiments and help HTTF with their efforts. Together with senior capstone students as well as graduate students in Cybersecurity, we have been creating a set of guidelines and best practices to help in the recovery of passwords from hashes. AWS EC2 instances are ideal as they can be crafted to the needs and resources of a particular case. For example we are currently running a t2.2xlarge instance on a case where we have to recover the password of a Microsoft Word document; we have also used a p2.16xlarge with GPU-based parallel compute capabilities, but it costs $14/hour of usage, and so we deploy it in a very surgical manner.

The Big Hack: How China Used a Tiny Chip to Infiltrate U.S. Companies – Bloomberg

The attack by Chinese spies reached almost 30 U.S. companies, including Amazon and Apple, by compromising America’s technology supply chain, according to extensive interviews with government and corporate sources.
— Read on

Decade of research shows little improvement in password guidance 

Leading internet brands including Amazon and Wikipedia are failing to support users with advice on how to securely protect their data, a study shows.More than a decade after first examining the issue, research by the University of Plymouth has shown most of the top ten English-speaking websites offer little or no advice guidance on creating passwords that are less likely to be hacked.Some still allow people to use the word ‘password’, while others will allow single-character passwords and basic words including a person’s surname or a repeat of their user identity.

Source: Decade of research shows little improvement in password guidance – University of Plymouth