Forbes quotes first-year PhD student Phil Daian on the DAO hack

Incoming PhD student Phil Daian was quoted by Forbes regarding the loss of tens of millions of dollars from the Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), a cryptocurrency-based venture.  The magazine, in quoting Daian's analysis, calls it "an excellent dissection" of what went wrong: "[the] exploit was [probably] missed in review so many times by so many different people [because] reviewers tend to review functions one at a time, and assume that calls to secure subroutines will operate securely and as intended.

Daian's article includes an acknowledgment to Gun Sirer: "Sincerest thanks ... for turning me on to this attack before it went public, and staying up late on a Friday to adapt my post to Markdown and get it published early".

Forbes article:

Daian's excellent dissection:

Date Posted: 8/22/2016

Ashesh Jain wins the best student paper award at CVPR

Ashesh Jain, together with Stanford postdoc Amir R. Zamir, Stanford professor Silvio Savarese, and Brain of Things CEO Ashutosh Saxena, received the CVPR 2016 Best Student Paper award for "Structural-RNN: Deep Learning on Spatio-Temporal Graphs".  One award was given; a record-breaking 2145 valid papers were submitted.

Quoting from the paper: The proposed new method is "generic and principled" because it "can be used for transforming any spatio-temporal graph through ... a certain set of well defined steps".  Evaluation was performed on human motion modeling, human activity anticipation, and driver maneuver prediction.

An interesting side note: all three of the general chairs and all four of the program chairs for CVPR 2016 were women, and women occupied most of the other chair positions:

Date Posted: 8/22/2016

Best paper award and invited talk at 2016 IJCAI "NLP Meets Journalism" workshop

CS PhD student Liye Fu, IS professor Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, and CS professor Lillian Lee received the Best Paper Award at the 2016 IJCAI "Natural language processing meets journalism" workshop for the paper "Tie-breaker: Using language models to quantify gender bias in sports journalism."

The work is motivated by suspicions that the questions posed by interviewers to female athletes differ from those posed to male athletes, a hypothesized tendency satirized by a CoverTheAthlete video.
The paper introduces a technique based on probabilistic language models to quantitatively measure differences in the kinds of questions asked. This enables investigation into whether questions to male athletes are more game-related than those to female athletes, in a way that (1) avoids requiring a subjectively determined list of game-related terms, and (2) runs deeper than merely finding individual words whose distributions in to-male vs. to-female questions differ. The experiments focus on tennis post-match interviews, since tennis is one of the few sports in which there is relative gender parity in the (significant) amounts of attention and prize money male and female players receive.

Also at the workshop, IS professor Mor Naaman gave an invited talk on "The past and future of systems for current events."

Coverage by the Pacific Standard
Workshop webpage

Date Posted: 8/22/2016

Ari Juels quoted on the Panama Papers revelation

Ari Juels was quoted by Politico, Infosecurity Magazine, and SC Magazine on the Panama Papers leak.

"It’s no secret that law firms are privy to data on the most sensitive fields and subjects—politics, finance and business transactions—just to name a few", said Juels. "The Panama Papers leak appears to show just how critical it is that firms safeguard their information, not just from external forces, but also from inside adversaries .... insider attacks are just as prevalent and often technically more difficult to address. In general, it’s difficult to create systems and policies that strike an appropriate balance between enablement of legitimate whistleblowing and protection against outright theft of data". 





Date Posted: 8/19/2016

Bindel co-organizes wonderful SIAM Mini-Symposium for Van Loan's retirement

David Bindel and Ilse Ipsen (NC State) jointly organized a two-part minisymposium in honor of Charlie Van Loan’s retirement on July 13 at the SIAM Annual Meeting in Boston.  The afternoon session was standing room only as colleagues came out to give their well-wishes and see some fascinating talks highlighting some of Van Loan's contributions.
Speakers described a wide variety of areas Van Loan touched over his career: Tammy Kolda and Orly Alter spoke about tensor factorizations for data compression and cancer diagnostic, Chris Bischof spoke about structured simulations of super carbon nanotubes, Bo Kågström spoke on work with Van Loan on fast linear algebra software, Nick Higham spoke on Van Loan’s the matrix exponential, Rob Schreiber spoke on a rotation-plus-rank-one decomposition from computational imaging, and Cleve Moler spoke on computing zeros of polynomials. Moler  gave his talk in an ancient shirt with “Ax = \lambda*x” written on it --- the very one that Charlie gave members of his thesis committee on graduating those many years ago.
Don Knuth, Gil Strang, and various other luminaries, as well as many former Cornell NA students and faculty, plus one future one (Anil Dmale) were in attendance.

Date Posted: 8/19/2016

Estrin wins the 2017 IEEE Internet Award

Deborah Estrin was the 2017 recipient of the IEEE Internet Award. She was cited for "formative contributions and thought leadership in Internet routing and in mobile sensing techniques and applications, from environmental monitoring to personal and community health"

The annual award recognizes from one to three people each year for "exceptional contributions to the advancement of Internet technology for network architecture, mobility, and/or end-use applications". The evaluation criteria include "innovation, leadership in the field, contributions to open system, specification, honors or other achievements, and the quality of the nomination". Estrin was the sole 2017 awardee.

Recipient list:

Date Posted: 8/18/2016

Sirer quoted in the New York Times on China's role in Bitcoin's civil war

Gün Sirer was quoted in a New York Times article entitled "How China Took Center Stage in Bitcoin’s Civil War". 
"Despite the talk of a borderless currency", the article states, "a handful of Chinese companies have effectively assumed majority control of the Bitcoin network. They have done so through canny investments and vast farms of computer servers dispersed around the country".  "The concentration in a single jurisdiction does not bode well", said Sirer. 

Date Posted: 8/18/2016

Nate Foster on the talk circuit

Nate Foster gave an invited talk with the intriguing title "The Next 700 Network Programming Languages" at LOLA 2016, the Workshop on Syntax and Semantics of Low-Level Languages. He presented NetKAT, a language for programming networks based on Kleene Algebra with Tests.

Foster also gave four lectures on "Network Programming" at the 2016 Oregon Programming Languages Summer School, providing a comprehensive introduction to how how ideas from programming languages and formal methods can be used to solve practical problems in networking.

LOLA abstract:
Video for OPLSS presentations:

Date Posted: 8/18/2016

Bala and Gomes have winning Atkinson Center Academic Venture Fund proposals

Kavita Bala and Carla Gomes were both PIs on winning proposals to the 2016 Academic Venture Fund competition run by Cornell's Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.  This incubator "seeds original, multidisciplinary research that is not likely to find funding elsewhere because the projects are novel, risky, need early data to establish traction, or involve new teams working together. The projects have real potential to involve external partners in industry, government, and nongovernmental organizations."

Here are the two projects:

"Building Better Cities", Bala's entry:
Cities are getting denser every day. Buildings currently produce one-third of the world's carbon emissions—so urban development is both a problem and an opportunity to mitigate climate change. Urban designers need next-generation modeling tools that move past single-building analysis to support master planning for energy efficiency, solar power, light, and ventilation. The researchers will develop software tools to model energy and climate impacts of hundreds of buildings together. These easy-to-use tools will help planners create more livable and sustainable urban habitats.

Researchers: Timur Dogan, architecture; Howard Chong, hotel administration; Kavita Bala, computer science.

"Hydropower and Ecosystem Services", Gomes' entry:
The Andean Amazon is in the midst of a hydropower boom. More than 150 new dams are proposed across several countries, with more already under construction. Environmental impacts are assessed for individual dams—but what is the combined cost of the hydropower explosion for biodiversity, fisheries, navigation, and other benefits provided by intact rivers? This multidisciplinary team will develop a framework for evaluating cumulative impacts in areas of rapid hydropower growth. The new models will guide design of more sustainable dam networks that meet hydropower targets while preserving key ecosystem services.

Researchers: Alexander Flecker, ecology and evolutionary biology; Carla Gomes, computing and information science; Patrick Reed, civil and environmental engineering; Gregory Poe, applied economics and management; Scott Steinschneider, biological and environmental engineering.

Cornell Chronicle article:

Date Posted: 8/17/2016

Sirer quoted in Technology Review on Bitcoin for ransomware

"Digital currency Bitcoin is variously promoted as an alternative to gold, a good way to make international transfers, or the future of e-commerce", writes MIT Technology Review, but "[n]ew research suggests that companies are now stockpiling Bitcoin for a different reason: so they can pay up quickly if their data is held ransom by malicious software." As evidence, the article cites Gun Sirer's announcement on Twitter that Cornell has created a coinbase account to be ready for such an event; Brave New Coin also reported on the tweet.

Technology Review article:

 Brave New Coin article:

The tweet:

Date Posted: 8/17/2016


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