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Nick Nikiforakis Receives Dual Early Career Awards

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Nick Nikiforakis, an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, has received two career awards in the same year. He has been awarded the prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award (NSF CAREER award) and the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Program Award (ONR YIP).

Computer Science Professor Nick Nikiforakis
Computer Science Professor Nick Nikiforakis

The NSF CAREER award is one of the most competitive and esteemed awards providing federal grants to support junior faculty with research and educational activities. Nikiforakis will receive more than $550K over the next five years to conduct research for his project, “Tools and Techniques for Preserving Integrity on the Web.”

The ONR YIP award is presented to early career academic scientists and engineers in tenure-track academic appointments. Nikiforakis’ project, “WebForecast: Analysis and Prediction of Web Application Updates,” was the only one selected in the Cyber Security and Complex Software Systems category. He will receive more than $512,000 over a 36-month period of performance.

“Nick has developed an outstanding track record in multiple areas of cybersecurity research — ranging from web security to online tracking. Further, Nick is an excellent educator and mentor to our students and we are fortunate to have him on our faculty here in Computer Science,” said Samir Das, Chair of the Department of Computer Science. “Two early career awards back to back is a very rare achievement — a well-deserved honor for Nick.”

Nikiforakis’ CAREER research aims to design, implement and evaluate tools and techniques for preserving integrity on the web by enabling web developers to discover the remote resources on which their web applications rely and make explicit statements about these resources through new policy systems. This award will allow him to continue researching how to counter attackers who appear to have an inexhaustible collection of diverse methods to target popular web applications and end users. Nikiforakis expects that this project’s outcomes will improve the research community’s understanding of content integrity on the web, and help achieve substantial practical impact in protecting web applications and users against integrity-violating attacks.

On a separate track of web security, Nikiforakis’ ONR YIP research seeks to create fine-grained, non-intrusive techniques for the accurate and automated fingerprinting of web applications. These techniques will be incorporated in a system called WebForecast, which will automatically subject new web applications to testing and analysis and derive version signatures without human assistance. Using WebForecast, he aims to develop an observatory to track websites of interest and predict how fast they update their software, when a new vulnerability is discovered.

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