Cryptovirology?!

 Andy Jeong (EE ’18) and Kevin Sheng (EE ’18)

On Thursday, February 5th, Bloomberg hosted a talk regarding a somewhat obscure topic, cryptovirology, a field of research focused around the application of modern cryptographic paradigms and tools towards the creation of powerful malicious software. The speaker,, Adam Lucas Young, Ph.D, introduced by Christopher Hong (EE ’13) and his coworkers from Bloomberg, touched on a wide variety of topics, from the birth of the field to the new developments being discovered due to the current efforts of many computer scientists.

One of the pioneers of the field, Young coined the term cryptovirology as he worked with his graduate advisor, Moti M. Yung of Columbia University. This research, which had started before the concept of cryptovirology was conceived, captured the interest of Young and Yung at a time when computer viruses were merely a myth. Experienced in electrical engineering and computer science, Young realized that the two fields he studied could merged through hacking. By 1995, he had subconsciously formulated a number of scientific problems that hackers themselves faced when infiltrating computer systems.

He described two attacks in particular—cryptoviral extortion, or ransomware in modern terms, and the Deniable Password Snatching Attack, which prevents network defenders seeking to thwart attacks from incriminating the attacker when the attacks occur.

In the former attack method, a virus, worm or Trojan hybrid encrypts the victim’s files. The victim must then pay the attacker in order to obtain the session key. This session key is encrypted under the malware creator’s public key within the malware.

The latter method is an attack that can be mounted by a cryptotrojan that allows the attacker to garner information from the victim’s system in a way that, even if the attacker is under surveillance on the local machine at the time of attack and when obtaining the information, he cannot be incriminated due to plausible deniability. This algorithm is derived through a combination of public key cryptography, probabilistic encryption, and the use of public information channels, together forming a secure receiver-anonymous channel.  This gives the attacker sole authority to decode and control while the victim cannot have access. Young also discussed the use of hybrid encryption, combining symmetric and asymmetric as well as public and private keys, to increase the effectiveness of these attacks.

To read more about his work, visit www.cryptovirology.com.

 

 

 

Free Cooper Shines Red Once More

Anushree Sreedhar (ChE ’18)

The close of the semester saw Free Cooper Union’s final student action for the year, the first year of Cooper’s half-tuition policy. From the red lights that glowed throughout the freshman dorms, to the global press received esteemed feature in Humans of New York, Free Cooper finished last semester with a bang.  On December 8, 2014, the traditional Cooper Union flag on the Foundation building was replaced with a fiery red flag as a reminder that the fight for Cooper and for higher education continues. Inspired by the Quebec student protests of 2012, the red motif continued when the box surrounding Peter Cooper square was painted early morning on December 12. A student organizer involved in the action said, “During a time where some may be focusing on the pending lawsuit as our last hope to save the school, the students felt that it was important to reignite conversation outside of the courtroom.”

This past weekend was Peter Cooper’s birthday, and to the shock of many students the administration did not hold the annual wreath laying ceremony. As a reaction to administrative negligence, Free Cooper took it upon themselves to have a party complete with hot chocolate and cake. The night also allowed for students to converse with the Cooper Union Alumni Association, who were also celebrating Peter Cooper’s birthday. During the course of the night, mysterious political messages appeared on the painted red box.

 

 

 

Summer Experience: Yuta Makita

Questions:

1. Where did you work?

For this past summer, I worked at Infineum USA in Linden, New Jersey.

2. What was your daily routine?

There was no ‘set’ daily routine for me; the day to day work differed significantly depending on availability of laboratory equipment and what my supervisor wanted. Most days I worked in the lab for a good portion of the morning and then transferred the data on to my computer in the afternoon. Some days though, I would be doing lab work all day and some days I would be doing desk work for the whole day.

3. What was the best part about your internship?

The best part of the internship was doing real time projects that relate directly to product manufacturing at Infineum. Everything I did had an impact on a process at a plant that is on the opposite side of the globe. In addition, I was able to learn about the industry and improve my laboratory skills. I also made valuable connections with my former colleagues at Infineum.

4. How was it different from what you’ve done thus far?

Industrial scale research is definitely different from research conducted in academia. The sensitivity of the information regarding research and products is taken very seriously at Infineum, and all projects need to go through a cost analysis to determine if the research is profitable for the company, which is a completely different approach than that in academia. In addition, I had the opportunity to gain experience with viscous products, which does not happen often in school laboratory classes.

5. What do you feel was the biggest takeaway from the experience?

The biggest takeaway from my experience was learning about the petroleum additive industry as well as being aware of how research projects are conducted on the industrial scale. From my position and my team, I was able to learn about how processes developed in the technology department are scaled up to a plant size production as well as how my team solves issues that arise in the plant.

Politicizing Beyoncé: Political toy or ardent feminist?

Brenda So (CE ‘18)

“Single Ladies”, “Run the world”, “If I were a boy” – even if you have never heard them, you know the artist behind these award-winning songs – Beyoncé. Beyoncé has always been seen as an advocate of black female empowerment and in 2014, Beyoncé publicly declared herself a “feminist”, hence launching her career to a more political arena.

At the beginning of “Beyoncé’s blueprint of the Queer World”, the Rose auditorium was already packed with an audience eagerly waiting for the lecture. Kevin Allred, who is currently a women-studies professor teaching at the State University of New Jersey, spoke – or rather, discussed – with the audience about Beyoncé’s career at a gender-studies lens and the respective implications.

First the audience explored the general background on sex and sexuality in our discussion. The word “queer” indicates an aversion in normativity, and the term “heteronormativity” is the belief that males and females fall into specific and complementary groups of natural roles. The opposite of heteronormativity is homonormativity. Groups that were commonly involved in discussions include the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community, drags etc.

In her music videos, like “Suga Mama” and “Upgrade U”, Beyoncé plays heavily on gender roles. She adopted masculinity into femininity – Herself being a sugar mama instead of sugar daddy, or playing the role of Jay-Z. However, Allred pointed out that using masculinity and femininity would never break heteronormativity down. A play on stereotypes – such as associating the male gender to being a policeman and the female gender to a white collar in “If I were a boy” – did not, in any way, facilitate the deconstruction of heteronormativity in the society.

Some members of the audience even came to suggest that Beyoncé was not in control of her own career. It was suggested that because of the hype on the idea of feminism Beyoncé’s managerial group was simply seeking more attention and trying to attract more fans. Beyoncé claims that she is a feminist and yet dances around in a half-naked dress at the same time. Is she just another icon of the entertainment industry, where she can use an over-the-top femininity and exploit queer issues for more fame and money?

The audience was then stuck between two issues – was Beyoncé a feminist, or was she not? At last, a brave member in the audience told Kevin, “After all we talked about Beyoncé, we still don’t know what you think.” His response was simple – it was Beyoncé’s way to talk about the queer world. Even though we might not know Beyoncé’s true intention – whether she was actually a feminist or another instrument of the music industry – it was an undeniable fact that Beyoncé was different from other feminists. As an artist, she posed questions on sex and sexuality and engaged people into conversations on what it meant to be a feminist. She started by deconstructing the rigid ideas on gender and opened up gender to a broader discussion and eventually a broader definition.

Summer Experience Interview

 Natalia Maliga (Art ‘15)

Questions: 1. Where did you work?

I went to Ghana with Professor Toby Cumberbatch and five other students.

2. What was your daily routine?

We didn’t particularly have a daily routine, just worked every day on SociaLite and RAMESSES, depending which project had more priority that particular day—whether we were talking to people in Ghana or heading up to Burkina Faso to the refugee camp.

3. What was the best part about your internship?

The best part was getting to know the people who lived in Kumasi and Jirapa, Ghana, where we spent most of our stay with Toby.

4. How was it different from what you’ve done thus far?

I’ve never been to Africa before, and I’ve never really had the opportunity until this summer to work on projects with the engineers.

5. What do you feel was the biggest takeaway from the experience?

That a new door has been opened for me—until now I haven’t truly realized how much I really want to go travel to places in the world that no one would expect me to go to.

How Shakespeare Works

Pranav Joneja (ME ’18)

Prof. Germano, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, has embarked on a new project: delivering a series of free lectures on the works of Shakespeare. “These talks are designed as an introduction – or reintroduction – to Shakespeare the poet-playwright-player and to the world of his plays.” Over the course of nine one-hour lectures, Dean Germano will deconstruct the themes, characters and context of Shakespeare’s less known works.

In an interview with The Pioneer, Dean Germano emphasized the relevance of Shakespearean literature to students of The Cooper Union, noting that “they [students] were first introduced to Shakespeare in early high school. Now that they are older, they can begin to appreciate the full extent to which Shakespeare addresses themes for more mature audiences”. Outside his most famous plays, like Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he explores mature themes like power, revenge, gender and sex. It is for this reason that Dean Germano selected plays like Titus Andronicus and The Winter’s Tale for further analysis in his lecture series.

Delivered in The Great Hall every Monday evening at 6 o’clock, Dean Germano’s lectures don’t require a long time commitment and are both enlightening and entertaining.  In fact, a portion of his first lecture was entirely in iambic pentameter! For more information: http://bit.ly/HowShakespeareWorks

 

 

Hack Cooper 2015

 Joseph Colonel  (EE ‘15)

DSCN2971Lecture on explicit and implicit intents by Natanel Fuchs from Google during break time.

Though Cooper staff was on holiday from this past Thursday to Monday, the NAB opened to host the Cooper Union’s second annual hackathon. HackCooper, a Major League Hacking (MLH) sanctioned event, brought together corporate sponsors that donated hardware and software packages to the more than 150 student participants. The students, who ranged from high school to graduate students, had 24 hours to create their “hack” and present it to a panel of judges for a chance to win prizes.

MLH strives to “spread the hacker ethos to every student on the planet; to cultivate communities where aspiring hackers have the opportunity to learn, build, and share their creations with the world.” As such, hackathons are hosted around the country, enticing students to take a project from concept to final product with free food, energy drinks, and “swag.”

HackCooper was sponsored by IBM®, yodle®, Dow Jones, The Hackerati, LinkedIn, Rhine API, littleBits™, Make School, Burak Kanber, Hack Manhattan, Thalmic Labs™, Device Factory, MakerBot®, and MLH. “Hackers” could rent out hardware ranging from an Oculus Rift, Arduino, and Raspberry Pi to a menagerie of littleBits™ modules as well as use software packages and services from IBM and Rhine API. All devices had to be returned after the winners were announced.

All “hacking” had to stop by noon on Sunday for projects to be considered for prizes. Each team presented their “hack” in the Rose Auditorium to a panel of judges and semi-lucid students. A group of sophomores in high school won first place with their “Hopulus Rift,” a frogger game built from the ground up that placed a hopping player in the titular frog’s place by incorporating an Oculus Rift and Xbox Kinekt. Second prize went to “Tunetap | Touring,” a website that promised to overthrow the current paradigm governing music gig booking. Third went to “Palmitron,” a prosthetic hand controlled by a wearable device. Nobody from Cooper cracked the top three.

Prizes were also awarded for humorous design (Gif Me), technical prowess (String2String), and extraordinary design (littlePinball). Corporations, too, handed out awards. IBM® gave an award for best use of their Bluemix platform (readme-dot-text); littleBits™ gave an award for best use of their hardware (littlePinball);  Make School gave an award for best mobile hack (Myout). A full list of “hacks” may be found at https://www.hackerleague.org/hackathons/hackcooper-2015/hacks

My hack, “DreadBot,” won no prizes. DSCN2932