Prof. Adam Bargteil Elected as ACM SIGGRAPH Director-at-Large

Professor Adam Bargteil was elected to a three-year term as director-at-large for ACM SIGGRAPH, the premier professional organization for computer graphics and interactive techniques.

Dr. Bargteil completed his Ph.D. in computer science at the University of California at Berkeley, where he worked in the Berkeley Computer Animation and Modeling group. Before joining the UMBC CSEE department, he spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow in the Graphics Lab at Carnegie Mellon University and was an assistant professor in the School of Computing at the University of Utah. His primary research interests are in computer graphics and animation, especially using physics-based animation. He is also interested in scientific computing, numerical methods, computational physics, and computational geometry.

SIGGRAPH is a special interest group of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the world’s first and largest computing society. Since its beginning in 1974 as a small group of specialists in a previously unknown discipline, it has evolved to become an international community of researchers, artists, developers, filmmakers, scientists, and business professionals who share an interest in computer graphics and interactive techniques.

As a director-at-large, Professor Bargteil will be part of a nine-person committee charged with steering the organization on its mission to foster and celebrate innovation in computer graphics and interactive techniques. Like all voting members of the ACM SIGGRAPH Executive Committee, directors-at-large are elected by the ACM SIGGRAPH membership.

Omar Shehab PhD defense: Solving Mathematical Problems in Quantum Regime, 7/7


Ph.D. Dissertation Defense
Computer Science and Electrical Engineering

Solving Mathematical Problems in Quantum Regime

Omar Shehab

2:00pm Thursday, 7 July 2016, ITE 325b

In this dissertation, I investigate a number of algorithmic approaches in quantum computational regime to solve mathematical problems. My problems of interest are the graph isomorphism and graph automorphism problems, and the complexity of memory recall of Hopfield network. I show that the hidden subgroup algorithm, quantum Fourier sampling, always fails, to construct the automorphism group for the class of the cycle graphs. I have discussed what we may infer for a few non-trivial classes of graphs from this result. This raises the question, which I have discussed in this dissertation, whether the hidden subgroup algorithm is the best approach for these kinds of problems. I have given a correctness proof of the Hen-Young quantum adiabatic algorithm for graph isomorphism for cycle graphs. To the best of my knowledge, this result is the first of its kind. I also report a proof-of-concept implementation of a quantum annealing algorithm for the graph isomorphism problem on a commercial quantum annealing device. This is also, to the best of my knowledge, the first of its kind. I have also discussed the worst-case for the algorithm. Finally, I have shown that quantum annealing helps us achieve exponential capacity for Hopfield networks.

Committee: Drs. Samuel J Lomonaco Jr. (Chair), Milton Halem, Yanhua Shih, William Gasarch and John Dorband

Rick Forno discusses DNC hack on NPR

Rick Forno

On June 14, the Democratic National Committee announced that its computer system had been hacked. Rick Forno, director of UMBC’s graduate program in cybersecurity and assistant director of the UMBC Center for Cybersecurity, discussed the “ongoing process” of stopping such attacks during a long-form discussion segment on the WOSU Radio’s “All Sides” show.

Forno made clear that there is no single, permanent solution to thwarting cyber threats, and a single mistake or vulnerability can have a major impact on digital security.. “All it takes is one person who does something wrong”—opening an email or plugging in a thumb-drive containing malware—“to place the entire organization at risk,” he says.

Forno also focused on the challenge of educating people about how to practice safe computing, and turning those practices into regular habits. The issues that arise with computing are as much human-based as they are technology-based, he suggests, plus, “You attack one problem and three more pop up the next day.”

To understand how a hack happened and to prevent hackers from taking advantage of vulnerabilities in the future, Forno suggests collecting and analyzing “artifacts” of the attack—things the hackers left behind—and heightening ongoing monitoring of key systems, approaches the DNC is likely now taking.

Travel grants for students to attend 2016 Grace Hopper Conference

Google will fund travel grants to the 2016 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference (GHC) which takes place in Houston, Oct 19-21, 2016. The GHC is the world’s largest gathering of women technologists and offers many valuable resources to students and academics alike, from a Student Opportunity Lab to tracks specifically designed to educate and inspire faculty. Its career fair, one of the largest in the U.S., earns a 97% satisfaction rate from our student survey respondents.

University students and industry professionals in the US and Canada who are excelling in computing and passionate about supporting women in tech can apply for a travel grant to attend the 2016 Grace Hopper conference. Sponsorship includes: conference registration, round trip flight to Houston, TX, arranged hotel accommodations from October 18-22, $75 USD reimbursement for miscellaneous travel costs and a fun social event with your fellow travel grant recipients on one of the evenings of the conference.

Apply by Sunday, July 10 using this online form. The Grace Hopper Travel Grant recipients will be announced by July 27th.

Cyber Chase: the UMBC Cyber Dawgs

Cyber Chase

In 2009 a small group took shape at UMBC. A student-run club composed of individuals who shared one common interest: computer and network security. They would meet weekly and discuss the latest cyber-security topics happening and even compete at a national security event, known as the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC). Officially, the UMBC Cyber Defense Team was born, but the group would also come to be known as the UMBC Cyber Dawgs.

Founding member Jorge Teixeira recounted what the early days of the UMBC Cyber Defense Team were like. “The idea started from Jeff Miller, who talked to Prof. John Pinkston,” said Teixeira, “I was sitting in [his lab] when they met to scout for a meeting room/lab.” At the time, Teixeira had done some security research for his MS and had a networking background and wanted to help Miller on what he could.

“We wanted to become an official SGA org but there was a lot of bureaucracy and delays involved, so that didn’t happen right away.” said Teixeira. In Fall 2010, the group competed in CCDC qualifications and went to regionals in mid Spring 2010, boosting the popularity of the group and finally becoming recognized by the SGA by late Fall 2010.

Teixeira also revealed the origins of the name Cyber Dawgs. “The name was coined by Dr. Nicholas in one of our early meetings with him, but the official name was and is UMBC Cyber Defense Team.” Said Teixeira.

“There are no limitations whatsoever with this group.”

Today, the Cyber Dawgs are still around and continue to compete at competitions like the CCDC. They have two faculty advisors, Dr. Charles Nicholas and Dr. Richard Forno, who take a hands off approach to let the club be student run. However, they do help with the logistics of the club and help provide necessary resources.

Bryan Vanek, Computer Science major and Cyber Dawgs club President, runs the day to day operations. While the majority of the group consists of STEM majors, Vanek doesn’t want the Cyber Dawgs to be limited to just people in the security or the computer science field. He actively encourages anyone who has an interest in some area of cybersecurity and a willingness to learn to join the group. “There are no limitations whatsoever with this group.” Vanek said, “We’ll be more than happy to help you along the way!”

Preparing for the yearly CCDC competition is a huge undertaking. The competition focuses on aspects of information assurance and system security, where teams are given a commercial system that they need to protect. In order to do this, security checklists are looked over and good security practices, such as firewall rules and permissions are implemented.

During the competition, a ‘red team’ will attack their system in order to compromise it. Cyber Dawgs have to react in real time, not only trying to close off their connection but cleaning up any damage the red team has done to prevent it from happening again. They have to achieve all of this while keeping any and all required services of that system up.

Cyber Dawgs

2015 CCDC

This year, the Cyber Dawgs placed fourth at regionals and the year before that they received first place at regionals, which let them move on to the national competition in Texas where they placed fourth overall.

“As long as people have a desire to learn security, we will be there to support them.”

Anh Ho, a junior Computer Science major and Vice President of Cyber Dawgs, helps plan meetings and events in addition to helping other club members prepare technically for competitions. It’s his 4th year in the club and will be his 3rd year competing. He also helps avoid some of the pitfalls they’ve had in the past when dealing with both club and competition logistics. “These can be simple logistical oversights such as failure to request T-Shirts from SGA [to] technical configurations and what we should do the following year to learn from our mistakes.” said Ho.

He also shares Vanek’s passion in supporting people who take an interest in security. “As long as people have a desire to learn security, we will be there to support them.” said Ho.

Other competitions include cyber Capture the Flags (CTFs). These events can last anywhere between a day or a week with a focus on cyber security as a whole. Some CTFs are more focused on red team activities, such as a reverse engineering and web exploitation. Other CTFs focus on defensive mechanics, like analyzing forensic data and implementing strong security practices on servers.

Cyber Dawgs Lab

This is the lab where the Cyber Dawgs use to practice for competitions. From left to right: Julio Valcarcel, Anthony Sasadeusz, Anh Ho, Jorge Teixeira.

Recently, the group participated in UMD’s Cyber Skyline CTF and Booz Allen Hamilton’s Kaizen CTF. “In these competitions, we usually do pretty well,” said Vanek, “we received first place either by an individual or by a team.”

“One of our other missions is to spread the word about how awesome the world of cyber security is…”

The Cyber Dawgs aren’t strictly about competitions. Vanek said, “If we just did [competitions] a lot of new people would get deterred. Thus one of our other missions is to spread the word about how awesome the world of cyber security is by teaching others in whatever way we can.”

During regular club meetings, the group has a large selection of activities that people can choose from to learn more about cyber security. These activities change depending on the semester, so in the Fall the activities are focused more on prepping for CTFs while the Spring semester focuses on CCDC by setting up servers and learning about firewall rules.

Christian Beam, a junior studying Computer Science and serving as club treasurer mentioned how not all meetings are just preparing for competitions. “Some meetings we have guest speakers from the industry to give talks about topics such as reverse engineering, or cryptography.” said Beam.

Cyber Dawgs Meeting

This image is from a tech talk with the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. After the meeting, the firm networked with attendees and even accepted resumes for internship and job positions.

The Cyber Dawgs try to reach as many people as possible, whether that involves letting people know about their club meetings through their list serve or attending involvement fest and networking with other groups and clubs that share an interest in cyber security. They reach out to groups like the UMBC Cyber Scholars group to let them know about meetings and encouraging them to get involved.

Chris Gardner joined the Cyber Dawgs in his freshmen year at UMBC in 2014. “I’ve been interested in cyber security for a few years now and was the president of my high school’s security club, so joining the Cyber Dawgs seemed like a natural progression.” said Gardner.

He now helps lead the group in cyber CTFs and has learned a lot about cyber security since he’s been with the group.

The Cyber Dawgs are now working on quite a few projects for the upcoming school year. They plan to update their website with new tools and resources for current and future members. In addition to that, they plan on getting a coach for the CCDC to help them in structure and to show their weak points.

“…great way to give people who are new to cyber security another way to learn.”

In the future, the group wants to host their own CTF event right at UMBC. Vanek said, “This is not only a fun project that we’ve been wanting to do for a while, but it will be a great way to give people who are new to cyber security another way to learn.”

Vanek is proud to be president of the Cyber Dawgs, and is looking forward to all their goals and future as an organization. “I can’t begin to thank everyone enough for all that I’ve learned so far from our experiences together,” Vanek said, “and I truly look forward to what we’re all going to be able to accomplish together in these next few years.

From left to right: Zach Orndorff, Chris Gardner, Josh Domangue, Julio Valcarcel, Jake Rust, Anh Ho, Christian Beam, Tyler Camp

From left to right: Zack Orndorff, Chris Gardner, Josh Domangue, Julio Valcarcel, Jake Rust, Anh Ho, Christian Beam, Tyler Campbell

For more information, you can check out the Cyber Dawgs through their website.

The Cyber Dawgs send out most of their information through the use of their list server. Just send an email to umbccd-subscribe @lists.umbc.edu using your UMBC email address.

You can also chat with members as well by joining their slack channel using for your UMBC email.

Webinar on UMBC’s new, live online cybersecurity training, 11am 6/30

The UMBC Training Center will hold an online webinar 11:00-11:40am on Thursday, 30 June 2016 about its new, live online versions of its Certificate in Cyber Foundations and our Certificate in Cybersecurity. Each of the courses is comprised of a bundle of classes designed propel you through the training needed to reach specific career and skill-level goals.

This program provides candidates with the skills, knowledge, and credentials required to successfully begin a career in Information Technology and be poised to begin the training necessary to enter the Cybersecurity field. To earn the Certificate in Cyber Foundations, students will be guided through these three courses: CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, CompTIA Security+. Each of these courses will prepare you for respective CompTIA Certificate Exams and includes exam vouchers.

The nationally recognized cybersecurity programs at UMBC Training Centers were designed in collaboration with senior executives from Fortune 500 companies and well-known government agencies and teach highly focused skills through practical experience as well as UMBC Training Centers’ signature Rapid Applied Learning approach.

Register for the webinar here.

PhD defense: Z. Wang, Learning Representations and Modeling Temporal Signals

Computer Science PhD Dissertation Defense

Learning Representations and Modeling Temporal Signals:
Symbolic Approximation, Deep Learning, Optimization and Beyond

Zhiguang Wang

1:00pm Tuesday, 31 May 2016, ITE 325, UMBC

Most real-world data has a temporal component, whether it is measurements of natural or man-made phenomena. Specifically, complex, high-dimensional and noisy temporal data are often difficult to model because the intrinsic temporal/topographic structures are highly non-linear, which makes the learning and optimization procedure more complicated. This talk will cover three correlated but self-contained topics to address the problem of representation learning in time series, deep learning optimization, and unsupervised feature learning.

First, I will show how to incorporate ideas from symbolic approximation with simple NLP techniques to represent and model temporal signals. To improve the symbolic approximation to model signals as words, we build a time-delay embedding vector (AKA skip gram) to extract the dependencies at different time scales, which yields state-of-the-art classification performance with a bag-of-patterns and vector space model. A non-parametric pooling/weighting scheme is proposed to extend the methods to multivariate signals

Second, I will show how to encode signals as images to learn and analyze them with deep learning methods. The Gramian Angular Field (GAF) and Markov Transition Field (MTF), as two novel approaches to encode both multi-scale spatial correlation and first order Markov dynamics of the temporal signals as images, are proposed. These visual representations are proved to work well in both visualizations by humans and pattern recognition using deep learning approaches. This work yields state-of-the-art algorithms for temporal data classification and imputation.

Finally, deep learning in image recognition (e.g. pictures or GAF/MTF images) involves high-dimensional non-convex optimization. Such optimization is generally intractable. However, I show how to use a set of exponential form based error estimators (NRAE/NAAE) and learning approaches (Adaptive Training) to attack the non-convex optimization problems in training deep neural networks. Both in theory and practice, they are able to achieve optimality on accuracy and robustness against outliers/noise. They provide another perspective to address the non-convex optimization problem (especially saddle points) in deep learning.

Committee: Tim Oates (Chair), Matt Schmill (Miner & Kasch), Hamed Pirsiavash, Yun Peng, Kostas Kalpakis

Innovations in Cybersecurity Education Workshop, Friday June 3, UMBC

The third Innovations in Cybersecurity Education Workshop (ICEW) will be held from 9:00am to 5:00pm on Friday, June 3, 2016 on the UMBC campus.

ICEW is a free regional workshop on cybersecurity education from high school through post-graduate. It is intended primarily for educators who are teaching cybersecurity at high schools, colleges, and community colleges. Anyone is welcome to attend, including teachers, students, administrators, researchers, and government officials. It will highlight master teachers and ongoing educational projects, including an effort at the US Naval Academy to teach cybersecurity to all midshipmen. The workshop will feature hands-on learning activities, including secure programming, cyber competition, and an educational game.

Sessions will include:

  • Secure coding through hands-on exercise: Blair Taylor and Siddharth Kaza (Towson University) will show how to carry out self-contained, lab-based modules designed to be injected into CS0-CS2 introductory computer science courses.
  • Using a message board as a hands­-on learning tool for Cyber Security II: LCDR Chris W. Hoffmeister (US Naval Academy) will discuss how to solve security challenges involving a simple, configurable HTML message board.
  • Hands-on vulnerability testing: Marcelle Lee (Anne Arundel Community College) and Steve Morrill (Loyola Blakefield) will demonstrate how to engage in a hands-on challenge and learning experience to help highlight the vulnerabilities in systems, with you in the driver’s seat. Participants of any skill level will learn strategies and techniques for determining if a system is vulnerable.
  • Hands-on group threat brainstorming with Security Cards: Tamara Denning (University of Utah) will demonstrate teaching students how to think broadly and creatively about computer security threats using 42 Security Cards along four dimensions (suits): human impact, adversary’s motivation, adversary’s resources, and adversary’s methods.

ICEW is free and open to the public — all are welcome to attend. This workshop will to be of interest to educators, school administrators, undergraduate and graduate students, and government officials. Lunch will be provided. There is ample parking.

For more information and to register, see the 2016 ICEW Web site.

CSEE’s Marc Olano at TEDx Towson: technology is changing the way we perceive reality
Marc Olano

Image: Marc Olano during the opening of the 3D Scanning Room at UMBC. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.

CSEE professor Marc Olano talked at TEDx Towson on how technology has changed how we think about reality. “New technology has started blurring the lines between the real and the virtual,” he said at the May 5 event.  He focused on how new 3D technologies have evolved and used examples including 3D graphics, virtual reality, video games and 3D printers. Professor Olano ended his talk pointing out that while he had not mentioned science fiction, “I can feel the world of holodecks and replicators on the horizon.”  Read more about his TEDx talk at UMBC News and watch it on YouTube.

Microsoft Student Partners program

Microsoft Student Partners (MSPs) are student technology leaders, empowered to build Microsoft communities on their campus and share their deep knowledge and passion for technology with their fellow classmates.  See here for more information. Apply by 15 July 2016.