Visible to the public Biblio

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Redmiles, Elissa M., Zhu, Ziyun, Kross, Sean, Kuchhal, Dhruv, Dumitras, Tudor, Mazurek, Michelle L..  2018.  Asking for a Friend: Evaluating Response Biases in Security User Studies. Proceedings of the 2018 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security. :1238-1255.

The security field relies on user studies, often including survey questions, to query end users' general security behavior and experiences, or hypothetical responses to new messages or tools. Self-report data has many benefits – ease of collection, control, and depth of understanding – but also many well-known biases stemming from people's difficulty remembering prior events or predicting how they might behave, as well as their tendency to shape their answers to a perceived audience. Prior work in fields like public health has focused on measuring these biases and developing effective mitigations; however, there is limited evidence as to whether and how these biases and mitigations apply specifically in a computer-security context. In this work, we systematically compare real-world measurement data to survey results, focusing on an exemplar, well-studied security behavior: software updating. We align field measurements about specific software updates (n=517,932) with survey results in which participants respond to the update messages that were used when those versions were released (n=2,092). This allows us to examine differences in self-reported and observed update speeds, as well as examining self-reported responses to particular message features that may correlate with these results. The results indicate that for the most part, self-reported data varies consistently and systematically with measured data. However, this systematic relationship breaks down when survey respondents are required to notice and act on minor details of experimental manipulations. Our results suggest that many insights from self-report security data can, when used with care, translate to real-world environments; however, insights about specific variations in message texts or other details may be more difficult to assess with surveys.

Zhu, Ziyun, Dumitras, Tudor.  2016.  FeatureSmith: Automatically Engineering Features for Malware Detection by Mining the Security Literature. Proceedings of the 2016 ACM SIGSAC Conference on Computer and Communications Security. :767–778.

Malware detection increasingly relies on machine learning techniques, which utilize multiple features to separate the malware from the benign apps. The effectiveness of these techniques primarily depends on the manual feature engineering process, based on human knowledge and intuition. However, given the adversaries' efforts to evade detection and the growing volume of publications on malware behaviors, the feature engineering process likely draws from a fraction of the relevant knowledge. We propose an end-to-end approach for automatic feature engineering. We describe techniques for mining documents written in natural language (e.g. scientific papers) and for representing and querying the knowledge about malware in a way that mirrors the human feature engineering process. Specifically, we first identify abstract behaviors that are associated with malware, and then we map these behaviors to concrete features that can be tested experimentally. We implement these ideas in a system called FeatureSmith, which generates a feature set for detecting Android malware. We train a classifier using these features on a large data set of benign and malicious apps. This classifier achieves a 92.5% true positive rate with only 1% false positives, which is comparable to the performance of a state-of-the-art Android malware detector that relies on manually engineered features. In addition, FeatureSmith is able to suggest informative features that are absent from the manually engineered set and to link the features generated to abstract concepts that describe malware behaviors.

Indela, Soumya, Kulkarni, Mukul, Nayak, Kartik, Dumitras, Tudor.  2016.  Helping Johnny Encrypt: Toward Semantic Interfaces for Cryptographic Frameworks. Proceedings of the 2016 ACM International Symposium on New Ideas, New Paradigms, and Reflections on Programming and Software. :180–196.

Several mature cryptographic frameworks are available, and they have been utilized for building complex applications. However, developers often use these frameworks incorrectly and introduce security vulnerabilities. This is because current cryptographic frameworks erode abstraction boundaries, as they do not encapsulate all the framework-specific knowledge and expect developers to understand security attacks and defenses. Starting from the documented misuse cases of cryptographic APIs, we infer five developer needs and we show that a good API design would address these needs only partially. Building on this observation, we propose APIs that are semantically meaningful for developers, we show how these interfaces can be implemented consistently on top of existing frameworks using novel and known design patterns, and we propose build management hooks for isolating security workarounds needed during the development and test phases. Through two case studies, we show that our APIs can be utilized to implement non-trivial client-server protocols and that they provide a better separation of concerns than existing frameworks. We also discuss the challenges and potential approaches for evaluating our solution. Our semantic interfaces represent a first step toward preventing misuses of cryptographic APIs.