talk: Mark Cather, Enterprise and Higher Education Security, 11:15 Fri 9/11 UMBC


UMBC Cyber Defense Laboratory
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Enterprise and Higher Education Security

Mark Cather
Chief Information Security Officer
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

11:15am-12:30pm Friday 11 September 2015, ITE 231

Mark Cather will speak about the priorities and current challenges in securing a higher education environment and enterprises in general. Mr. Cather has been working for UMBC’s Department of Information Technology since he received his BS in computer science from UMBC in 1997. He assumed his current role as UMBC’s Chief Information Security Officer in 2014.

For more information, contact Prof. Alan Sherman, sherman at umbc.edu .

6th Annual CSEE Welcome Back Picnic, 1-2:30 Wed Sept 9th, 312 University Cntr


The UMBC ACM Student Chapter Committee invites CSEE students, faculty and staff to its sixth annual Welcome Back Picnic. For more information, contact ua20019 at umbc.edu.

Hi All,

To the old timers, welcome back to UMBC! Hope you guys had a great summer! To all the new ones, welcome to UMBC! specifically to CSEE!

Before the semester takes its toll, we @ ACM Student Chapter and CSEE department, would like to invite you to our welcome back picnic (= free food).

It’s a opportunity to socialize with everyone and for the faculty and students to meet each other.

What: Sixth annual CSEE Welcome Back Picnic
Who: Limited to CSEE faculty, staff and students
Date: Wednesday, September 9th, 2015
Time: 1:00pm to 2:30pm
Location: University Center, Room 312

So get ready to dig into some good food and conversations. Have an amazing year ahead! Welcome once again,

UMBC ACM Student Chapter Committee and CSEE department

Anupam Joshi quoted in Nature news article on wearable technology



Used with permission by Nature Publishing Group

CSEE chair Anupam Joshi was interviewed and quoted in a news article What could derail the wearables revolution that appears in the current issue of Nature (v525n7567). The piece discusses on two issues caused by the rapid uptake of wearable technology: “finding improved ways to transmit data to and from wearables, and keeping all that information safe.”

The article described research on FaceBlock, a prototype application developed in UMBC’s Ebiquity Lab that can enhance personal privacy in environments with wearable devices like Google Glass.

“It’s a cliché that whenever there’s a new technology we start talking about Huxley and A Brave New World, but with wearables — and what’s loosely termed the Internet of Things — we truly are entering into a new era, and we have to start thinking of these issues,” says Anupam Joshi, head of the Center for Cybersecurity at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

In another high-profile incident, the introduction of Google Glass headsets two years ago triggered concerns that users would capture images of passers-by without their knowledge. Researchers at the Center for Cybersecurity took this opportunity to apply their work on computer codes that enforce privacy policies. They built the wryly named FaceBlock app, which blocks out the faces of people who have requested privacy from photographs taken by Google Glass. But for this to work, a Google Glass owner would have to opt in by installing the app. So the only way for such a system to reliably provide privacy would be for manufacturers to make it standard and implement it with dedicated hardware, says Joshi. “Let’s say that Google was to build in a feature like this into every Google Glass so that it would automatically obey these kinds of commands — then it would work.”

More information on the FaceBlock prototype and related UMBC research on privacy for wearable technology can be found in these papers.

UMBC to build immersive virtual reality system with NSF Major Research Infrastructure award

Image from Mechdyne of a visualization wall at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Electronic Visualization Lab made with displays from Planar.

Professors Jian Chen,  Penny Rheingans,  Karl Steiner,  Michael Summers, and Craig Saper received a Major Research Infrastructure grant from the National Science Foundation to build PI2, an immersive virtual reality system to support research in interactive computing and digital humanities.


PI2 will be one of the most advanced visualization facilities of its kind in the mid-Atlantic region. The team sees it as enabling new research efforts on the visual exploration of data and knowledge discovery for biology, math, engineering, visual arts, and digital humanities as well as a tool to study and enhance the potential of the medium itself.

The instrument will feature a curved wall with a 27M pixel resolution made from multi-column, thin-bezel, and stereo-capable LCD panels with a six degree-of-freedom tracking system. The system will integrate and leverage many important characteristics: immersion, hybrid reality, high resolution, large field of view, large space and size, body-centric human-computer interaction, and support for heterogeneous data fusion.

The short-term goal is to accelerate science and education by addressing complex data analysis tasks which may have at least three sources: (1) big data, (2) environments inaccessible or too dangerous for humans so that simulation is necessary, and (3) high-fidelity environments for engineering and human behavior studies.

PI2 is expected to become an integral and vital part of a long-term vision for complex data analysis at UMBC, in effect, a human-computer symbiosis in which humans guide computers to identify features of potential interest that the computer then locates and displays. Developing this vision requires advances in multiple areas, including semi-automatic feature detection, visual representations, and interaction, where traditional display modalities limit what can be displayed and perceived. The instrument will facilitate broad interdisciplinary research and provides an innovative teaching and research environment for a diverse student population. Expectations include:

    • Advancing multiple avenues of creative inquiry currently blocked or severely restricted will advance rapidly. The instrument encourages visual thinking among researchers in sciences, healthcare, biomedicine, national security, humanities, and education;
    • Establishing appropriate levels of technologies needed for different classes of knowledge discovery analysis; and
    • Assembling a set of research projects to investigate the use of the instrument with the expectation of creating a novel, demonstrably useful, rich, and expressive set of techniques for many cyber-physical and cyber-human systems.

PI2 will integrate advances in natural language processing, wearable computing, visualization, data mining, and interaction and its ability to synthesize, capture, create, and analyze visual information in unprecedented detail will transform the way analysts interact with visual information. Its capabilities will benefit multiple research areas at UMBC, including brain connectome, woodland ecology, interpersonal experiences, biomedicine, universal access, engineering physics, simulations, systems biology, education, digital humanities, green technologies, and unmanned-vehicle studies.

For more information, contact .

PhD defense: Yu Wang, Physically-Based Modeling and Animation

Computer Science and Electrical Engineering
University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Ph.D. Dissertation Defense

The Modeling Equation: Solving the Physically-Based
Modeling and Animation Problem with a Unified Solution

Yu Wang

12:00pm Friday, 28 August 2015, ITE 352

Physically-based modeling research in computer graphics is based largely on derivation or close approximation from physics laws defining the material behaviors. From rigid object dynamics, to various kinds of deformable objects, such as elastic, plastic, and viscous fluid flow, to their interaction, almost every natural phenomena can find a rich history in computer graphics research. Due to the nonlinear nature of almost all real world dynamics, the mathematical definition of their behavior is rarely linear. As a result, solving for the dynamics of these phenomena involves non-linear numerical solvers, which sometimes introduces numerical instability, such as volume gain or loss, slow convergence.

The contribution of this project is a unified particle-based model that implements an extended SPH solver for modeling fluid motion, integrated with rigid body deformation using shape matching. The model handles phase changes between solid and liquid, including melting and solidification, where material rigidity is treated as a function of time and particle distance to the object surface, and solid fluid coupling, where rigid body motion causes secondary fluid flow motion. Due to the stability of the fluid-rigid interplay solver, we can introduce artistic control to the framework, such as rigging, where object motion is predefined by either artistic control, or procedurally generated dynamics path. Interaction with the fluid can be indirectly achieved by rigging the rigid particles which implicitly handles rigid-fluid coupling. We used marching cubes to extract the surfaces of the objects, and applied the PN-triangles to replace the planar silhouettes with cubic approximations. We provide discussion on evaluation metrics for physically-based modeling algorithms. In addition, GPU solutions are designed for physics solvers, isosurface extraction and smoothing.

Committee: Drs. Marc Olano (CSEE; Advisor, Chair), Penny Rheingans (CSEE), Jian Chen (CSEE), Matthias Gobbert (Math), Lynn Sparling (Physics)

CSEE faculty comment on Ashley Madison data breach


CSEE faculty Anupam Joshi and Rick Forno were interviewed this week by several media outlets on the impact and cybersecurity aspects of the Ashley Madison data breach.

Ashley Madison is a popular website with “more than 33 million members in 46 countries” that provides services “for married men and women looking to have a discreet affair.”  Last month a group claimed to have obtained data about the site’s users and threatened to release it unless the site’s Toronto-based company, Avid Life Media Inc., shut down the service. Earlier in the spring, the company had announced plans for an IPO later in the year. The company called the hacker’s bluff and the group, the Impact Team, released more than 30G of customer data in several dumps this week. Avid Life has confirmed that some of the customer data posted is legitimate.

Professor Joshi, director of the UMBC Center for Cybersecurity and also chair of the CSEE department, was interviewed by ABC2.  In the interview,  he cautioned that data breaches are increasingly becoming part of daily life. “Information is valuable,” he said. “People are after information. No security is perfect and once you marry these things, there is an incentive for someone to spend the right time and effort to steal some information.” He also spoke about users falling into a false sense of security. “Nothing is really secure on the Internet,” he warned. “If you don’t want the thing you’re doing to show up on ABC2 at some point then don’t do it.”

Dr. Forno, Center for Cybersecurity assistant director and head of UMBC Cybersecurity Graduate Program spoke to Beta Boston and TV Newsroom about public reactions as the data breach revealed several government officials as users of the website. “Depending on who you talk to, you’ll get two wildly different opinions on the issue,” he said. “Some people will say, `Well, they broke the law, they hacked into this private company’s computers and stole data.’ Yeah, that’s true. But from the other side, you have to say, were they doing this for a public service?”  He also discussed the incident with South Korea-based radio program “This Morning with Alex Jensen.”

Some material adapted from an Insights article by Achsah Callahan.

PhD proposal: Assistive Contactless Capacitive Electrostatic Sensing System, 12pm 8/21

Ph.D. Proposal

ACCESS: An Assistive Contactless Capacitive
Electrostatic Sensing System

Alexander Nelson

12:00pm Friday, 21 August 2015, ITE 325b

The objective of ACCESS is to develop fabric capacitor sensor arrays as a holistic, wearable, touchless sensing solution. The fabric sensors are lightweight, flexible, and can therefore be integrated into items of everyday use. Further, the capacitive sensing hardware is low-power, unobtrusive, and easily maintainable. The research includes: the construction of fabric sensor prototypes and custom sensing hardware; the development of adaptive signal processing and gesture recognition; and the creation of an assistive cyber-physical interface for mobility impairment. The research is conducted with advisement from medical professionals and private consultants, and evaluated in clinical trials by individuals with upper-extremity mobility impairment. Proposed future work includes evaluation of the assistive device for computational overhead, the inclusion of personal contextual information in gesture recognition and device actuation, and investigation of a dense spatial-resolution capacitor sensor array as a low-resolution greyscale imaging system.

Committee: Drs. Nilanjan Banerjee and Ryan Robucci (Chairs), Chintan Patel, Sandy McCombe-Waller (UMB Medical School)

Opportunities through robotics: Kavita Krishnaswamy ’07

An interview with UMBC Computer Science Ph.D. student Kavita Krishnaswamy appeared in a recent post on the UMBC Alumni Blog.

Every so often, we’ll chat with an alum about what they do and how they got there. Today we’re talking with Kavita Krishnaswamy ’07, mathematics and computer science. Krishnaswamy has spinal muscular atrophy and has not been able to leave her house in six years. Thanks to Beam Telepresence Technology, a robotic program that allows her to remotely view and navigate spaces through her computer screen, she’s presented her doctoral thesis and attended conferences across the country. The current Ph.D. student talks about her experience with the Beam and her research on robotics and accessibility.

Read the full interview on the UMBC alumni blog.

NSA Supports 2015 Maryland Cyber Challenge (MDC3)

Dr. Rick Forno, Graduate Cybersecurity Program Director and Assistant Director of UMBC's Center for Cybersecurity, has received a $45,000 grant from the National Security Agency (NSA) to fund the prizes for student winners at the 2015 Maryland Cyber Challenge (MDC3) finals taking place at the CyberMaryland 2015 conference in Baltimore on October 28-29.   

The Maryland Cyber Challenge builds excitement around cybersecurity education and careers by bringing together teams of students and cybersecurity professionals to compete in a series of increasingly complex cybersecurity challenges. Now in its 5th year, over 800 student competitors have participated in this regional cybersecurity competition, with NSA providing more than $330,000 in prize money.

For 2015, each member of the first-place student team will receive $2,500 and each member of the second-place team will receive $1,250 to contribute toward their higher education and training in the cybersecurity and computer science fields. Identical prizes are awarded both in the high school and college divisions.

Dr. Forno and UMBC are co-founders of MDC3, along with Leidos and the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED). For the first four years of the event, Dr. Forno served as the competition coordinator and GameMaster, but transitioned into an advisory role for 2015 and beyond.

Interested? Register a team for MDC3 or join the CyberDawgs to train and compete – they've got two teams already registered!


PhD proposal: Data, Energy, and Privacy Management Techniques for Sustainable Microgrids, 11am 8/11

Ph.D. Proposal Defense

Data, Energy, and Privacy Management
Techniques for Sustainable Microgrids

Zhichuan Huang

11:00am Tuesday, 11 August 2015, ITE 325b

Sustainable microgrids have gained increasing attention recently, because they can provide the power supply to places i) where the traditional power grid does not exist due to the poor economy or limited number of residences (e.g., islands); and ii) when the traditional power grid is temporally not functioning due to severe weather conditions (e.g., storms). However, in order to achieve sustainability, there are a lot of challenges to be addressed. In this thesis, we propose to investigate three key techniques in sustainable microgrids. First, we investigate the big energy data management problem and present E-Sketch, a middleware for utility companies to gather data from smart meters with much less storage and communication overhead. E-Sketch utilizes adaptive sampling to compress power consumption changes in time domain. Then frequency compression is applied to further compress the sampled data.

The second key technique is the energy management in microgrids. Because energy generation and demand in each individual home and microgrid is not matching, the key challenge of the energy management is to model the existing energy demand and propose novel energy management to reduce the overall energy usage and cost in microgrids. In this technique, we study the theoretical, technical, and economic feasibility of sustainable microgrids. To enable distributed energy management, energy consumption data of different homes needs to be shared in the microgrid. Thus an important problem is how we guarantee that the shared data can only be used for energy management but not revealing the privacy of individual homes in the microgrid. To address this problem, we leverage the unique feature of hybrid AC-DC microgrids and propose the third technique — Shepherd, a privacy protection framework to effectively protect occupants’ privacy. In Shepherd, we provide a generic model for energy consumption hiding from different types of detection techniques.

Committee: Drs. Ting Zhu (chair), Nilanjan Banerjee, Chintan Patel, and David Irwin (UMass Amherst)