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Naveed Receives Google PhD Fellowship in Security

2/24/2015 11:34:00 AM Tom Moone, CS @ ILLINOIS

CS graduate student Muhammad Naveed was one of just 15 recipients of a 2015 North American Google PhD Fellowship. Created in 2009, these fellowships recognize outstanding graduate students who are doing exceptional work in a number of computing disciplines. Naveed is a fourth-year PhD student working in the area of security.

Muhammad Naveed
Muhammad Naveed
Muhammad Naveed

Naveed said his research projects fall into three broad areas: cryptography, systems security, and genomic privacy. In the area of applied cryptography, he is working to bridge the gap between theoretical cryptography and real applications. Naveed pointed out that sometimes the theoretic solutions don’t match well with the real applications, or they are inefficient, or they just require too much time. Naveed is developing novel cryptographic models that can bring modern cryptographic technology to real applications.

CS Professor Manoj Prabhakaran, one of Naveed’s two advisors, said, “Today, more than ever before, there is a great opportunity to bring tools and ideas from theoretical cryptography to solving practical problems in information security.  For this we need researchers who have an in-depth understanding of the practical problems, and are familiar with the theoretical tools. I see Naveed as someone who fits into this niche.”

Naveed’s work on systems security focuses on Android devices. Naveed and his collaborators examine the Android system to find fundamental flaws. They then design end-to-end attacks on the system based on these flaws and study the consequences. “We study the fundamental flaws in the system,” said Naveed. “Then we design real attacks [to find] the consequences of these flaws and develop systems and methods to protect against these attacks.”

The solutions proposed by Naveed and his collaborators have helped companies, such as Google, Samsung, Amazon, and Facebook, fix critical security flaws. Some of Naveed’s work in this area has been recognized with a third place finish in the Applied Security Research Best Paper Competition of the NYU Cyber Security Awareness Week (CSAW). In addition, Naveed has been acknowledged by the Android security team for his contributions to improving the security of the Android system—the Android security team acknowledges those whose solutions have actually been implemented in the Android system.

In the genomic privacy area, Naveed is working on both technological and policy issues. He recently co-authored a survey paper.

“Naveed is working on key problems for privacy protections with great energy and imagination,” said CS Professor Carl Gunter, Naveed’s other advisor. “He has demonstrated advances in a diverse collection of areas like secure cloud computing, protecting data on mobiles, and protecting genomic data. I’m delighted at Google’s support and recognition of his contributions.”

Naveed has a strong collaboration record outside the walls of CS @ ILLINOIS. He has been working on a number of projects with XiaoFeng Wang, a professor at Indiana University. They met when Wang was visiting Illinois during a sabbatical, and they have worked on several papers together.

In addition to his other recognitions, Naveed was recognized last September by the Engineering Council at the University of Illinois with an Emerging Engineer Award. Naveed has recently been selected as a 2015 Illinois Technology Foundation Fifty for the Future Awardee.