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Jason Polakis receives NSF CAREER award

Jason Polakis

Each website you access or application you download is another opportunity for your privacy to be undermined. Jason Polakis, an assistant professor of computer science, is designing and developing new ways to analyze a web browser’s capabilities and discover how they can be misused to track or re-identify users.

Polakis received a National Science Foundation CAREER award in support of this research, the National Science Foundations’s top award for early-career researchers.

“In recent years we have become increasingly reliant on the Internet for conducting many of our everyday tasks, and our online presence encompasses both our personal and professional lives,” Polakis said. “As a result, in such a digital society, ensuring the privacy of online activities and limiting the exposure of sensitive or private data is of paramount importance.”

Polakis is working to understand both the security limitations of web browsers and the privacy threats faced by users. He is designing countermeasures to combat these security threats, as well as developing other privacy-preserving measures.

“Web browsers constitute the application platforms that mediate the majority of our online activities. Due to browsers’ critical positioning within the web ecosystem, flaws that enable privacy-invasive behaviors can have severe ramifications,” Polakis said. “As the same time, their inherent complexity in terms of capabilities and functionality renders the proactive detection of such flaws an extremely challenging task. This project will tackle that challenge by developing novel detection techniques and systems, as well as appropriate countermeasures for better protecting users.”

The grant, “CAREER: Tracking on the Modern Web: Novel Attacks, Measurements, and Defenses,” is $500,000, and runs for five years.