Candidate: Michael Paik
Advisor: Lakshminarayanan Subramanian


Prof. Lakshminarayanan Subramanian, NYU (advisor, reader)
Prof. Jinyang Li, NYU (reader)
Prof. Dennis Shasha, NYU (reader)
Dr. Bill Thies, Microsoft Research (reader)
Prof. Yaw Nyarko, NYU (auditor)

Date: Monday May 6, 2013
Time: 10:00 am
Room: 719 Broadway Rm 709

Title: Usable Security Mechanisms in the Developing World


Security and privacy are increasingly important in our interconnected world. Cybercrimes, including identity theft, phishing, and other attacks, are on the rise, and computer-assisted crimes such as theft and stalking are becoming commonplace.

Contemporary with this trend is the uptake of technology in the developing world, proceeding at a pace often outstripping that of the developed world. Penetration of mobile phones and services such as healthcare delivery, mobile money, and social networking is higher than that of even amenities like electricity. Connectivity is empowering disenfranchised people, providing information and services to the heretofore disconnected poor.

There are efforts to use technology to enhance physical security and well-being in the developing world, including citizen journalism, education, improving drug security, attendance tracking, etc.

However, there are significant challenges to security both in the digital and the physical domains that are particular to these contexts. Infrastructure is constrained, literacy, numeracy, and familiarity with basic technologies cannot be assumed, and environments are harsh on hardware. These circumstances often prevent security best practices from being transplanted directly to these regions – in many ways, the adoption of technology has overtaken the users ability to use it safely, and their trust in it is oftentimes reater than it should be.

This dissertation describes several systems and methodologies designed to operate in the developing world, using technologies and metaphors that are familiar to users and that are robust against the operating environments.

It begins with an overview of the state of affairs, and several threat models. It continues with a description of Signet, a method to use SIM cards as trusted computing hardware to provide secure signed receipts. Next, Epothecary describes a low-infrastructure system for tracking pharmaceuticals that also significantly and asymmetrically increases costs for counterfeiters. The balance consists of a description of a low-cost Biometric Terminal currently in use by NGOs in India performing DOTS-based tuberculosis treatment, Blacknoise, an investigation into the use of low-cost cameraphones with noisy imaging sensors for image-based steganography, and finally Innoculous, a low-cost, crowdsourcing system for combating the spread of computer viruses, particularly among non-networked computers, while also collecting valuable "epidemiological" data.