Cornell Tech researchers Prof. Thomas Ristenpart, computer science, and Prof. Nichola Dell, information and computer science, are among 10 winners recognized by Facebook to further Internet security measures.
Ristenpart and Dell were granted $80,000 and $80,045, respectively, to study security, privacy and safety.
Ristenpart aims to improve security of the current, encrypted end-to-end messaging. “[The current encryption algorithm] has a tension, which we aimed to resolve, with other types of features that Facebook wants to incorporate in their products, like user-reporting.”
A flaw of the current encryption algorithm, according to Ristenpart, is that Facebook cannot see a harassing message when it’s being reported. To address this problem, he’d like to create a software that provides a more secure experience for users beyond those on Facebook without significantly infringing on privacy.
“You want to have a privacy guarantee that’s very strong, right up until you decide to disclose to Facebook as a recipient of harassing message, and then the message is disclosed in a verifiable way,” he said.
Ristenpart, who worked with Prof. Yevgeniy Dodis, computer science, New York University for their submission to Facebook, believes this encryption issue is not just an engineering problem affecting only Facebook, but a problem that requires an understanding of underlying scientific principles to resolve.
Prof. Nicola Dell, information and computer science, focused her submission “Advancing Digital Privacy and Security for Novice Internet Users in the Global South” on understanding and mitigating “the privacy challenges faced by novice internet users in the Global South, focusing on Bangladesh as a first case study.”
Facebook’s “Secure the Internet Grants” is part of the $1-million commitment that the social media giant made last year to “support original, defense-focused research on emerging security and privacy topics,” including cryptography, malicious activity analysis and behavior biometrics in post-password authentication.
“The committee of Facebook security engineers that reviewed the submissions found that each winner took a new and creative approach to the security, privacy and safety issues that many people regularly see online,” according to Facebook.