Identity thieves are always trying to find new ways to hack into our personal data, but new research – assisted by a Binghamton University undergraduate – is trying to remove at least one method of attack.
As part of a research experience program for undergraduates last summer at Carnegie Mellon University, Jennifer Seibert helped investigate cache attacks, which target data stored in a computer. or a mobile device to increase internet speed. The research, led by Assistant Professor Nathan Beckmann and PhD candidate Brian Schwedock of CMU’s School of Computer Science, was nominated for best paper at the International Symposium on Computer Architecture in June.
“An adversary can enter the cache to track the victim and extract encryption information. With our architecture, you can track cache misses, which can be a good indication if there’s an attacker in the cache,” said Seibert, a senior computer science student at Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science.
“What I did last summer was write apps that would serve as victims during testing, while writing attacker code. We then used our architecture to protect the victim apps from attack and save the information I gathered by reading this code.
Seibert – who hails from the Long Island hamlet of Holbrook, NY – first became interested in computer science in high school, when she spent the summer before her freshman year learning the basics of programming through to online tutorials. She then took a course and joined her school’s robotics team.
After high school, “Binghamton was the only college I applied to,” she said. “I visited the campus and really liked the setting and the programs available. Apart from IT, I was also accepted into the Binghamton Scholars program and the First-Year Research Immersion program, which were good opportunities for me as a freshman.
As a CS major, Seibert enjoys the academic challenges that Binghamton offers.
“I like to learn new things,” she says. “There is always a different language in each course, especially for the introductory courses. It was definitely a change from high school, but it was manageable enough.
During the 2021-22 academic year, she conducted cybersecurity research with Assistant Professor Hoda Naghibijouybari, and this summer she is working as a software engineering intern at a defense company. She is also involved in extracurricular activities, including professional sorority Alpha Omega Epsilon for female engineers and Binghamton Codes, which teaches coding to non-CS majors.
Seibert is particularly proud of her involvement with Girls Who Code, which she joined as an instructor in the spring of 2020. GWC, which has clubs across the United States, was founded in 2012 by Reshma Saujani. More than 50,000 elementary, middle and high school students have participated in its programs since then.
“We taught about 10-15 girls to code in Java over the weekend,” she said. “It was definitely an interesting semester as we transitioned to distance learning due to COVID. I never really had the real Girls Who Code experience until last year, with an in-person graduation ceremony and all.
For 2022-23, Seibert will serve as president of the GWC in Binghamton, which kind of harkens back to her own high school experience as a teenager who wanted to write her own programs.
“It’s so great to give back to girls who don’t have mentorship or other women to look up to on the court – they just want to learn something new,” she said. “At first they don’t know anything at all, and then the next week they’re able to write things on their own code and really be able to grasp those programming concepts at such a young age.”
After graduating from Binghamton, Seibert hopes to get a job in the cybersecurity-enhancing industry. In the meantime, his research at CMU has been lauded, and it’s certainly something for the resume.
“It wasn’t something I expected,” she said. “Last summer, I was thinking about how cool the research was and the experience I was getting. I wasn’t thinking about getting publications — I didn’t think that was going to be a result.