PrivacyGroup Event:2017/09/28 Talk on secure systems for censorship resistence

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Thursday, September 28, 2017, at 11:00am, in Gould-Simpson, GS 906.

Speaker: Cecylia Bocovich , Ph.D. Candidate, University of Waterloo

Title: Designing Secure Systems for Censorship Resistance

Abstract: In recent years, Internet censorship has become an increasing world-wide concern. A 2016 Freedom House report declared that Internet freedom has now been in a steady decline for six consecutive years. In 2016, roughly two-thirds of Internet users dealt with government censorship that aimed to cut off access from websites that support political opposition, marginalized communities, and images that criticize or satirize those in power. Furthermore, journalists and users of social media that disseminate, or merely read, content that a censoring nation deems contrary have faced personal dangers such as arrest or increased scrutiny.

Tools to circumvent censorship aim to hide the websites that users access from a government censor. Some even disguise traffic patterns by mimicking allowed protocols or using services such as Skype to tunnel censored content. These systems have evolved as a result of a cat-and-mouse game between nation-state censors and censorship resistors: as new techniques for evading censorship arise, censors tweak their filtering systems to identify the weaknesses in existing tools that signal their usage. In this talk, I will describe key events in the censorship arms race and how to design and implement censorship circumvention tools that tilt the arms race in the favour of the censorship resistor.

Bio: Cecylia Bocovich is a PhD student at the University of Waterloo. Her research addresses broad issues in privacy and more narrowly focuses on censorship resistance in its many forms. She is currently a member of the Cryptography, Security, and Privacy (CrySP) research lab and the Centre for Applied Cryptographic Research (CACR). Prior to her current research, she worked on formal verification and software engineering techniques as a part of the Network for the Engineering of Complex Software-Intensive Systems for Automotive Systems (NECSIS) research lab.