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Professor Ian Goldberg, his doctoral student Nik Unger and colleagues win prestigious paper awards at PETS 2018

Monday, July 30, 2018

Cheriton School of Computer Science Professor Ian Goldberg, along with his PhD student Nik Unger and colleagues, have won three prestigious paper awards at the 2018 Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium (PETS). Held this year in Barcelona, Spain from July 24–27, 2018, PETS is the top research venue dedicated to the study and advancement of privacy enhancing technologies.

photo of Professor Ian Goldberg

2018 Andreas Pfitzmann Best Student Paper Award

 Bypassing Internet Challenges Anonymously"Alex Davidson, a PhD candidate at Royal Holloway, University of London, along with coauthors Ian Goldberg, Nick Sullivan, George Tankersley and Filippo Valsorda were awarded the 2018 Andreas Pfitzmann Best Student Paper Award for “Privacy Pass: Bypassing Internet Challenges Anonymously,” which was published in the Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies, volume 2018, issue 3, 2018.

Their paper describes a cryptographic protocol that allows Internet users — in particular, those who use privacy-enhancing tools — to receive anonymous tokens for solutions they provide to web access challenges, such as CAPTCHAs, that are designed to block malicious traffic. The protocol allows the tokens to be exchanged in the future for access to sites without requiring the user to interact with the challenges, and without the user being trackable from one site to another, thereby increasing access speed while maintaining anonymity.

The Andreas Pfitzmann Best Student Paper Award is conferred for papers written solely or primarily by a student. It is based on the scientific quality of the paper, its expected impact on the field, and the quality of the student’s presentation. The award takes its name from the late Andreas Pfitzmann, a German computer scientist and professor of data protection and privacy at the Technical University of Dresden.

2018 Caspar Bowden Award for Outstanding Research in Privacy Enhancing Technologies

screen grab of "Lower-cost epsilon-Private Information Retrieval"Ian Goldberg, with coauthors Raphael Toledo and George Danezis from University College London, received the 2018 Caspar Bowden Award for Outstanding Research in Privacy Enhancing Technologies for their paper titled “Lower-cost epsilon-Private Information Retrieval,” which was published in Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies, volume 2016, issue 4, 2016. This prestigious recognition consists of a USD 3,000 prize and a statue to commemorate the award.

Their paper examined ways to lower the cost of private information retrieval, a task that is typically computationally costly and notoriously difficult to scale. The authors explored lower-cost relaxations of information-theoretic private information retrieval, based on dummy queries, sparse vectors and compositions with an anonymity system. They prove the security of each scheme using a flexible differentially private definition for private queries that can capture notions of imperfect privacy.

2018 Caspar Bowden Award for Outstanding Research in Privacy Enhancing Technologies runner-up

screen grab of "Improved Strongly Deniable Authenticated Key Exchanges for Secure Messaging"Cheriton School of Computer Science PhD student Nik Unger and his supervisor, Ian Goldberg, were runner-up winners of the 2018 Caspar Bowden Award for Outstanding Research in Privacy Enhancing Technologies for their paper titled “Improved Strongly Deniable Authenticated Key Exchanges for Secure Messaging,” which was published the Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies, volume 2018, issue 1, 2018.

Their paper develops approaches for off-the-record messaging by proposing three new strongly deniable key exchange protocols that are designed to be used in modern secure messaging systems to provide simultaneously strong authentication to the intended party in a private conversation, while preventing that party or any other, even if being coerced, from being able to prove who they were talking to — or even whether an actual conversation took place at all — to a third party.

The Caspar Bowden Award for Outstanding Research in Privacy Enhancing Technologies is named for the late Caspar Bowden, a British privacy expert who worked for more two decades advocating for the right to privacy and freedom from mass surveillance. He believed deeply in privacy enhancing technologies as a means to protect these rights and was involved in the PETS community for most of its history.

“Congratulations to Ian, Nik, and their international colleagues in academia and industry for their best paper awards,” said Dan Brown, Director of the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science. “It’s wonderful to see the innovative research conducted by members of our Cryptography, Security, and Privacy group receiving such great and prestigious recognition from peers in the privacy enhancing technology community.”

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