Upcoming events

Privacy, Transparency and Trust in the User-Centric Internet

Oana Goga
Université Grenoble Alpes
SWS Colloquium
07 Mar 2019, 10:30 am - 12:00 pm
Saarbrücken building E1 5, room 029
simultaneous videocast to Kaiserslautern building G26, room 111
The rise of user-centric Internet systems such as Facebook or Twitter brought security and privacy threats that became out of control in recent years. To make such systems more dependable, my research focuses on three key aspects: (1) privacy: ensure users understand and can control the information that is disclosed about them; (2) transparency: ensure users understand how their data is being used and how it affects the services they receive; and (3) trust: ensure users can evaluate the trustworthiness of content consumed from these systems. 

In this talk, I will share my research efforts in understanding and tackling security and privacy threats in social media targeted advertising. Despite a number of recent controversies regarding privacy violations, lack of transparency, or vulnerability to discrimination or propaganda by dishonest actors; users still have little understanding of what data targeted advertising platforms have about them and why they are shown the ads they see. To address such concerns, Facebook recently introduced the "Why am I seeing this?" button that provides users with an explanation of why they were shown a particular ad. I first investigate the level of transparency provided by this mechanism by empirically measuring whether it satisfies a number of key properties and what are the consequences of the current design choices. To provide a better understanding of the Facebook advertising ecosystem, we developed a tool called AdAnalyst that collects the ads users receive and provides aggregate statistics. I will then share our findings from analyzing data from over 600 real-world AdAnalyst users; in particular on who is advertising on Facebook and how these advertisers are targeting users and customizing ads via the platform. 

Mitigating data leaks in real world systems

Aastha Mehta
Max Planck Institute for Software Systems
SWS Student Defense Talks - Thesis Proposal
07 Mar 2019, 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm
Saarbrücken building E1 5, room 029
simultaneous videocast to Kaiserslautern building G26, room 111
Unintended data disclosures are a major concern for many online services, such as healthcare systems, government departments, and web services. Data may leak over explicit output channels of the systems, for instance due to accidental bugs and misconfigurations in the system. Data may also leak over various side channels, for instance, in a cloud environment where a tenant shares the Cloud provider’s infrastructure with other mutually distrusting tenants.

In this thesis, we address the problem of unintended data disclosures in web services due to both types of causes, i.e. explicit leaks and side channel leaks. Specifically, we propose a system to mitigate explicit leaks due to accidental bugs in database-backed services; and a system to mitigate network side channel leaks in the tenants of an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) Cloud.

In this talk, I will first present a high level overview of the design, implementation, and evaluation of Qapla, which is a system to ensure policy compliance in database-backed services.

Then I will present our ongoing work on the design, implementation, and evaluation of Pacer, which is a system to mitigate network side channels in Cloud tenants. Pacer mitigates network side channels using traffic shaping. Pacer provides a generic abstraction of a traffic shaping tunnel, which encapsulates the tenant's network traffic, and shapes it to make it independent of the tenant's secrets. We present a prototype with Pacer's tunnel endpoints integrated in the Cloud hypervisor and the client OS. Our preliminary evaluation shows that Pacer can enforce traffic shaping securely, while incurring modest overheads on bandwidth, client latencies, and server throughput.

Predictable Execution of Real-Time Applications on Many-Core Platforms

Matthias Becker
KTH Royal Institute of Technology
SWS Colloquium
08 Mar 2019, 10:30 am - 11:30 am
Kaiserslautern building G26, room 111
simultaneous videocast to Saarbrücken building E1 5, room 029
Nowadays, innovation in many industrial areas is software driven, where existing software functions become more complex and new software functions are constantly introduced. The rapid increase in functionality comes along with a steep increase in software complexity. To cope with this transition, current trends shift away from today’s distributed architectures towards integrated architectures. Here, previously distributed functionality is consolidated on fewer, more powerful, computers. Such a trend can for example be observed in the automotive or avionics domain. This can ease the integration process, reduce the hardware complexity, and ultimately save costs. One promising hardware platform for these powerful embedded computers is the many-core processor. A many-core processor hosts a vast number of compute cores, that are partitioned on clusters which are connected by a Network-on-Chip. However, ensuring that real-time requirements are satisfied in the presence of contention in shared resources, such as memories, remains an open issue. In addition, industrial applications are often subject to timing constraints on the data propagation through a chain of semantically related tasks. Such requirements pose challenges to the system designer as they are only able to verify them after the system synthesis (i.e. very late in the design process). In this talk, we present methods that transform timing constraints on the data propagation delay into precedence constraints between individual task instances. An execution framework for the cluster of the many-core is proposed that allows access to cluster external memory while it avoids contention on shared resources by design. Spatial and temporal isolation between different clusters is provided by a partitioning and configuration of the Network-on-Chip that further reduces the worst-case access times to external memory.

Recent events

Towards Literate Artificial Intelligence

Mrinmaya Sachan
Carnegie Mellon University
SWS Colloquium
05 Mar 2019, 10:30 am - 12:00 pm
Saarbrücken building E1 5, room 029
simultaneous videocast to Kaiserslautern building G26, room 111
Over the past decade, the field of artificial intelligence (AI) has seen striking developments. Yet, today’s AI systems sorely lack the essence of human intelligence i.e.  our ability to (a) understand language and grasp its meaning, (b) assimilate common-sense background knowledge of the world, and (c) draw inferences and perform reasoning. Before we even begin to build AI systems that possess the aforementioned human abilities, we must ask an even more fundamental question: How would we even evaluate an AI system on the aforementioned abilities? In this talk, I will argue that we can evaluate AI systems in the same way as we evaluate our children - by giving them standardized tests. Standardized tests are administered to students to measure the knowledge and skills gained by them. Thus, it is natural to use these tests to measure the intelligence of our AI systems. Then, I will describe Parsing to Programs (P2P), a framework that combines ideas from semantic parsing and probabilistic programming for situated question answering. We used P2P to build systems that can solve pre-university level Euclidean geometry and Newtonian physics examinations. P2P achieves a performance at least as well as the average student on questions from textbooks, geometry questions from previous SAT exams, and mechanics questions from Advanced Placement (AP) exams. I will conclude by describing implications of this research and some ideas for future work.

A Client-centric Approach to Transactional Datastores

Natacha Crooks
University of Texas at Austin
SWS Colloquium
28 Feb 2019, 10:30 am - 11:30 am
Saarbrücken building E1 5, room 029
simultaneous videocast to Kaiserslautern building G26, room 111
Modern applications must collect and store massive amounts of data. Cloud storage offers these applications simplicity: the abstraction of a failure-free, perfectly scalable black-box. While appealing, offloading data to the cloud is not without challenges. Cloud storage systems often favour weaker levels of isolation and consistency. These weaker guarantees introduce behaviours that, without care, can break application logic. Offloading data to an untrusted third party like the cloud also raises questions of security and privacy.

This talk summarises my efforts to improve the performance, the semantics and the security of transactional cloud storage systems. It centers around a simple idea: defining consistency guarantees from the perspective of the applications that observe these guarantees, rather than from the perspective of the systems that implement them. I will discuss how this new perspective brings forth several benefits. First, it offers simpler and cleaner definitions of weak isolation and consistency guarantees. Second, it enables more scalable implementations of existing guarantees like causal consistency. Finally, I will discuss its applications to security: our client-centric perspective allows us to add obliviousness guarantees to transactional cloud storage systems.

New Abstractions for High-Performance Datacenter Applications

Malte Schwarzkopf
SWS Colloquium
18 Feb 2019, 10:30 am - 11:30 am
Saarbrücken building E1 5, room 029
simultaneous videocast to Kaiserslautern building G26, room 111
Developing high-performance datacenter applications is complex and time-consuming today, as developers must understand and correctly implement subtle interactions between different backend systems. I describe a new approach that redesigns core datacenter systems around new abstractions: the right abstractions substantially reduce complexity while maintaining the same performance. This saves expensive developer time, uses datacenter servers more efficiently, and can enable new, previously impossible systems and applications. I illustrate the impact of such redesigns with Noria, which recasts web application backends-i.e., databases and caches-as a streaming dataflow computation based on a new abstraction of partial state. Noria's partially-stateful dataflow brings classic databases' familiar query flexibility to scalable dataflow systems, simplifying applications and improving the backend's efficiency. For example, Noria increases the request load handled by a single server by 5-70x compared to state-of-the-art backends. Additional new abstractions from my research increase the efficiency of other datacenter systems (e.g., cluster schedulers), or enable new kinds of systems that, for example, may help protect user data against exposure through application bugs.