June 13, 2012
Computer Science Senior Honored with Chancellor’s Award for Research in Network Security
Christopher Badger recognized for research on a secure peer-to-peer network that works by randomizing connections
(Santa Barbara, Calif. -) Christopher Badger, a senior in Computer Science at UC Santa Barbara, has been honored with the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research for his work on iTrust, a new peer-to-peer (P2P) networking system that allows individuals from anywhere in the world to distribute and search for information, even in the presence of restrictive entities or malicious attacks.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) networks are systems of individual computers that share information with each other, instead of connecting through a large server – such as those that host most websites found on the Internet. In recent years, P2P networking has grown to user bases in the hundreds of millions. Though P2P networks have been criticized for enabling the illegal trade of copyrighted content, significant legitimate uses include many licensed online media players and the VoIP application Skype, which currently has more than 650 million users worldwide.
“I termed the system “declustering” because it randomizes how the peers in a network connect to each other, instead of clustering in what’s called a neighborhood,” explains Badger. “The result is a robust network that is a lot harder to attack because the connections are random.” Badger was encouraged by his faculty advisors Louise Moser and P. Michael Melliar-Smith to submit his work on iTrust to WEBIST, the International Conference on Web Information Systems and Technologies. Badger’s paper was accepted as a full length presentation at WEBIST, held in April 2012 in Portugal.
iTrust was conceived to combat security threats, but also to address potential Internet censorship associated with centralized search engines. It aims to provide reliable information retrieval that cannot easily be censored or disabled by an entity, such as governments that seek to restrict search engine access. PhD students working with Badger in the Moser and Melliar-Smith lab have already built prototypes of iTrust for home computers and mobile devices.
iTrust’s declustering algorithm goes even further by reducing the “expectation of cooperation” between peers. This means node connections are short-lived and rely less on the information provided by their peers, so therefore less predictable by security threats.
“When you lower the expectation of cooperation, maybe the network’s peak performance isn’t as good,” said Badger. “But in the event of an attack, you have what’s called a “graceful degredation” instead of a full meltdown. When things start to fail, the network can still function for longer while someone addresses the breach.”
Badger is one of only two undergraduates to receive the Chancellor’s Research Award upon graduation this June. Professor Melliar-Smith commented that “Chris's intellectual development as a researcher has been exceptional. His work is quite different from that of typical undergraduate students, and is fully comparable to the work of our doctoral students.” The iTrust project is funded in part by the National Science Foundation
Participation in research has given him a boost in his post-graduation career. Badger attended a career fair hosted by UCSB Career Services and was offered a position with Santa Barbara-based Green Hills Software, a technology company that specializes in embedded software.
Media ContactMelissa Van De Werfhorst