Matthias Vallentin and Vern Paxson take a “VAST” Step Forward in Cyber Security

Postdoctoral researcher Matthias Vallentin is developing VAST,  a  forensic analysis tool  designed to help prioritize the investigation of computer security breaches.  It complements Bro, a security tool  devised by Prof. Vern Paxson when he was a graduate student 22 years ago and which is now used worldwide, to instantly collect huge volumes of log data that a hack might compromise.  “Maybe the external machine also appeared in a phishing email, which contained a PDF attachment. Not only that, but the PDF also includes a malicious payload, which upon opening, sends sensitive information from the employee’s computer to a cyber criminal.  VAST supports this iterative process to reconstruct the complete picture and presents it on a platter” explains Vallentin.  The function, development, and industrial potential of these tools are discussed in a Berkeley Research article.

Baiyu Chen awarded top prize at Infrastructure Vision 2050 Challenge

CS graduate student Baiyu Chen (advisor: Alexei Efros) and Anthony Barrs were awarded top prize and $50,000 for their design at the Infrastructure Vision 2050 Challenge.  Their idea, profiled in an article for Fortune, was to construct a "Hyperlane," or a single platform the size of four interstate lanes that would run parallel to pre-existing highways in order for self-driving cars to travel at high speeds with no chance of getting into a jam.

Tomás Vega rises to a disability challenge

Tomás Vega, a senior computer science and cognitive science major, was part of a team that participated in the first collegiate Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) event and which was profiled in a Jewish News article titled "Cal students pull a marathon to engineer disability solutions."  His team, led by Berkeley alumnus Pierluigi Mantovani, designed a special pair of gloves to help a Berkeley filmmaker with very limited use of his hands navigate a computer screen.  The filmmaker, who had to use a joystick with his lower lip to navigate, can now perform the same task by just slightly moving his wrists.  The gloves use electromyography, which detects signals from his muscles.   “When someone tells you, ‘Thank you for changing my life, for improving the quality of my life,’ there’s nothing like that,” Vega said.

Dan Garcia's research group GameCrafters featured in PBS Newshour article

Prof. Dan Garcia was interviewed in a PBS Newshour article titled “This Pi Day, use math to beat your friends at classic toy games”. To celebrate Pi Day, mathematicians and physicists explored three classic toys, hula hoops, yo-yo’s and Connect Four on ways to be the most successful with each toy. To count how many possible ways a real game of Connect Four could end, Prof. Garcia’s  research group called GamesCrafters created a program to simulate all the moves. GamesCrafters “strongly solved” the game and found 4,531,985,219,092, or 4.53 trillion combinations to Connect Four are possible.

Student startup culture is in The House

A number of EECS alumni and faculty have been invited to guest lecture for a DeCal course called "Build the Future" (CS 198), designed in collaboration with startup institute The House, to get undergraduate students engaged with the Berkeley entrepreneurial ecosystem and to use their time on campus creatively.  CS majors Jimmy Liu and Zuhayeer Musa (who run a company called Bash) helped develop the course, CS Prof. Scott Shenker is the faculty advisor, and Cameron Baradar (B.S.’15 EECS) is executive director of The House.  Speakers will include CS Prof. Joe Hellerstein, EE Prof. Kurt Keutzer, co-founder of Oculus Jack McCauley (B.S.’86, EECS), and founder of inDinero Jessica Mah (B.S.’10 EECS).

Ruzena Bajcsy and Robert Matthew are developing exoskeleton assistive devices for the people

Prof. Ruzena Bajcsy and EECS alumus student (now post doc in the HART Lab)  Robert Matthew (M.S. EE '15) are featured in a Berkeley Research article titled “Engineering to Restore Power to the People”. Supported by the Signature’s Innovation Fellows Program, Matthew and Prof. Bajcsy have developed mathematical models of the body allowing for measurement of upper and lower limb movement. This provides the foundation for wearable assistive devices to serve a range of physical limitations. With teams of undergraduate students, they fabricate lightweight exoskeletons and strap them onto volunteers to test their effectiveness. Their goal is to make assistive devices as lightweight and inexpensive as possible using commercially available parts and 3-D printing.

HKN receives 2015-2016 IEEE-HKN Outstanding Chapter Award

The UC Berkeley chapter of Eta Kappa Nu (HKN) has been named recipient the 2015-2016 IEEE-HKN Outstanding Chapter Award. This award is presented to IEEE-HKN chapters in recognition of excellence in their chapter administration and programs. Main criteria for being selected for this award are to improve professional development; raise instructional and institutional standards; encourage scholarship and creativity; provide a public service, and generally further the established goals of IEEE-HKN.

Tobias Boelter finds vulnerability in WhatsApp

Computer Science graduate student Tobias Boelter has found a security loophole in the popular messaging app WhatsApp that could allow encrypted messages to be read and  intercepted.  Facebook, which acquired WhatsApp in 2014, had emphasized security and end-to-end encryption as a primary selling point.  This flaw may be an inadvertent error or a deliberate backdoor.  Tobias writes "Facebook does not deny that there is a vulnerability that can be used to 'wiretap' targeted conversations by, for example, governments with access to WhatsApp’s servers. And despite WhatsApp’s recent public statements, the vulnerability cannot be avoided by verifying fingerprints or checking a checkbox in the WhatsApp settings."

Algorithm probes how AIs reason

Quartz  explores an algorithm devised by CS Prof. Trevor Darrell, L&S CS undergraduate student Dong Huk Park, CS grad student Lisa Anne Hendricks, and postdoc Marcus Rohrbach, along with researchers in the Max Planck Institute for Informatics,  in an article titled "We don’t understand how AI make most decisions, so now algorithms are explaining themselves." Engineers have developed deep learning systems that ‘work’ without necessarily knowing why they work or being able to show the logic behind a system’s decision.   The algorithm uses a “pointing and justification” system, to point to the data used to make a decision and justify why it was used that way.

Jun-Yan Zhu creates algorithms for the artistically challenged

CS graduate student Jun-Yan Zhu (adviser: Alexei Efros) is the subject of an article in California Magazine titled "Paint by Numbers: Algorithms for the Artistically Challenged."  Zhu and his team apply the tools of machine learning to computer graphics.  For example, in the team's most recent project, they developed software that lets users easily create realistic images from the crudest brushstrokes.  Their research projects have yielded potential applications from improving online searching and e-commerce to art and fashion.