Stony Brook Matters
Professor Nikiforakis and his team of students collaborate in the PragSec lab in the New Computer Science Building.

Nick Nikiforakis is helping to make the Internet more secure.

Computer Science Professor Nick Nikiforakis
Computer Science Professor Nick Nikiforakis

An assistant professor from the Department of Computer Science in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Stony Brook University, Nikiforakis has received a 2018 Amazon Research Award for his work in the area of Internet security. His project, ICBots: Tools and Techniques for Detecting Web Bots, will receive $64,000 in funding.

“The Amazon Research Award recognizes some of the most ingenious computer scientists in the world,” said Fotis Sotiropoulos, Dean, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “I congratulate Nick for receiving this prestigious grant. It is well deserved and indicative of the caliber of faculty we have here in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.”

“Nick is a rising star in cybersecurity research. He and his students’ work has made several inroads in understanding web security and privacy issues,” said Samir Das, Chair of the Department of Computer Science. “His Amazon Research Award not only recognizes his expertise but also supports his explorations in detecting malicious web bots to make the web more secure.”

Professor Nikiforakis and his team of students collaborate in the PragSec lab in the New Computer Science Building.
Professor Nikiforakis and his team of students collaborate in the PragSec Lab in the New Computer Science Building.

Nikiforakis is affiliated with Stony Brook’s National Security Institute and he is noted for his work with practical, hands-on security and privacy. Much of that work has been in measurement of online abuse and countermeasures against unwanted tracking.

Many web bots are benign. For instance, without bots there could be no Google search. Malicious web bots, however, are used for a variety of nefarious purposes including the exploitation of stolen credentials to log in to as many online assets as possible to steal private information, money, or even air miles.

Professor Nikiforakis’ ICBots project builds websites that exist only for the purpose of attracting web bots. These bots are then “fingerprinted” and tracked to identify which are malicious so they can be dealt with.

“Receiving an Amazon Research Award puts our project in very select company with many of the most well-respected academic institutions around the world,” said Professor Nikiforakis. “Amazon’s support for these types of efforts will help lead to more effective protections against bad actors online.”

—  Dick Wolfe

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