New PhD Student: Alireza Khodamoradi

Kastner_group_AlirezaWe are delighted to welcome Ali Khodamoradi as one of the newest PhD students to the Kastner Research Group (KRG). Ali is far from a stranger. He started working with us in 2012 as volunteer on the Engineers for Exploration camera trap project. About a year after that, he was accepted into the Wireless Embedded Systems MAS program. Last Spring, he graduated from that program, and was accepted into the CSE PhD program. He is the first student to go from WES MAS graduate to CSE PhD program. We are happy to have him as an “official” member, after several years as an “unofficial” member.

Invited Paper on Coral Reef Annotation

snap-2The visual documentation of seafloor habitats is playing an increasing important role in understanding habitats like coral reefs. Our new collaboration with the Sandin Lab at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography is focusing on developing a pipeline to automate the data collection and annotation of large swaths of coral reefs. Our invited paper at this years International Conference on Underwater Networks and Systems discusses the issues related to collecting this data, the challenges with processing the data, and the potential to automate the process through computer vision and robotic systems.

Robotics Research Highlighted in Triton Magazine

triton copyThe Triton Magazine talked about our robotics research and development efforts in an article titled Life Among the Drones. The article went back in time a bit, and to talk with  Engineers for Exploration (E4E) alumni Radley Angelo about his experiences in developing some of our first drones. It also discussed our more recent efforts in studying the Maya archaeological site El Zotz in Guatemala. Current E4E undergraduate Dominique Meyer also provides his insights about the future of drone technology.

Fourth Annual Group Retreat

KRG Group Hike 2015A tradition unlike any other — the Kastner Research Group retreat. Most of the members of the group headed for a few days of adventure, research presentations, and high elevation mountain air last week. The fourth annual installment included the group hike up and around the Crystal Crag near Mammoth Lakes. The five mile hike, with over 1000 feet of elevation gain, was enjoyed by some more than others. But everyone made it and has some stories to tell. The picture shows the group (at least those that survived) with the Crystal Crag in the background. Next year we will try something a little less difficult, e.g., hiking up Mount Everest.

New PhD Student: Jeremy Blackstone

JeremyBlackstone_Portrait_72dpiWe are pleased to welcome Jeremy Blackstone as the newest PhD student in the Kastner Research Group. However, Jeremy is no stranger; he has worked with us for two summers. In Summer 2013, he worked as a member of the Engineers for Exploration program. Last summer he did research on the RIFFA project. Jeremy graduated magna cum laude in computer science from Howard University, where he also earned his M.S. degree

Jeremy Blackstone is the first graduate student selected to receive a fellowship from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Minority Ph.D. Program to do a doctorate in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of California, San Diego. He was also awarded a UC-HBCU fellowship. He graduated magna cum laude in computer science from Howard University, where he also earned his M.S. degree.

National Science Foundation Secure and Trustworthy Computing Award

hardware-securityWe recently received an NSF grant on “Employing Information Theoretic Metrics to Quantify and Enhance the Security of Hardware Designs”. The project will develop quantitative hardware security metrics that enable designers to precisely evaluate the security of the system. We do this by employing statistical measures on the amount of uncertainty and information flow that is present across different portions of the hardware. These metrics are oblivious to the types of variables under consideration. Thus, we can assess both functional security properties related to confidentiality and integrity as well as covert channels. Our metrics enable the characterization of portions of the system that are potentially vulnerable to attacks. And they determine the effectiveness of mitigation techniques on the overall security of the system. The end result is more secure hardware, which leads to safer and more secure computing devices.

Link: grant information

RIFFA 2.2 Released

riffaThe latest and greatest version of RIFFA has been released. RIFFA is a framework that enables designers to easily communicate between FPGAs and CPUs over a PCIe bus. This work was born out of immense frustration of building complete hardware accelerated systems. Previous to RIFFA, there was no easy to use way to create an CPU/FPGA hybrid system that could take advantage of the power computing abilities of FPGAs while at the same time utilize the flexibility and interoperability of software running on CPUs. RIFFA changed that and is currently being used by designers around the world.

The latest updates to RIFFA include a complete redesign of the FPGA interfacing. This enables user to easily extend it to work with other FPGAs and development boards. The primary developers of this project are Kastner Group PhD alumni Matt Jacobsen and current PhD student Dustin Richmond. The work has been funded by Altera, Intel, and Xilinx. It was the recipient of the FPL Community Award in 2013.

RIFFA webpage
Xilinx Xcell Daily Blog
UCSD Qualcomm Institute Press Article
UCSD Computer Science and Engineering Press Article
FPL Community Award

NCWIT Undergraduate Research Award

antonella_stereo_cameraThe NCWIT Collegiate Award Honorable Mention – given by the National Center for Women & Information Technology and HP – was presented to Antonella Wilby. Antonella has been a member of our Engineers for Exploration program working on a project related to developing underwater sensing technology to document the shipwrecks and other underwater archaeological artifacts. Each honorable mention received a $500 cash gift, an HP backpack and gift, and recognition at an awards ceremony at the NCWIT 2015 Summit in Hilton Head, SC. Congrats to Antonella!

NCWIT Announcement

New Metrics for Hardware Security

stopwatchSide channels are a commonly exploited to derive secret information from hardware. These leak information through unintended sources, e.g., the amount of time to perform an encryption. They have been shown to be a powerful attack to extract cryptographic keys and other confidential information. There are many defenses against these timing side channel attacks. Most of them perform some sort of randomization in an attempt to mask the computation time. Yet, it has been difficult to quantify the benefit of these defenses.

Our recent research provides a metric to allow designers to determine how resilient their design is in the face of a side channel attack. While there are many metrics for hardware designers, these have focused on performance, power, and area. We developed information theoretic approaches and showed that they can be used to quantify timing-based information leakage. This is detailed in our recently accepted paper, “Quantifying Timing-Based Information Flow in Cryptographic Hardware” at the International Conference on Computer Aided Design. Vinnie will present the paper in Austin, TX in November. Congrats to all the authors: Baolei Mao, Vinnie Wei Hu, Alric Althoff, Janarbek Matai, Jason Oberg, Dejun Mu, Tim Sherwood, and Ryan Kastner.

NPU Visiting Professor

IMG_3616Ryan and Vinnie travel to Northwestern Polytechnical University (NPU) in Xi’an China to continue our collaboration with Dr. Dejun Mu and his students. Ryan was given a visiting professor position as part of the NPU Special Zone for Talents. Vinnie was a gracious host, showing Ryan all of the sites in Xi’an and making sure he was well feed. The picture is of the Famen Temple outside of Xi’an, and of course, Ryan’s foot (to add to his foot picture collection).