Narseo Vallina-Rodriguez

Research interests:

Network measurements, privacy and security, online advertising and user tracking, network transparency, Internet freedom, mobile computing, usable security and consumer protection.

Research space:

The rapid evolution of mobile systems and the increasing availability of cheap, fast and portable computing devices has given birth to a rich ecosystem of applications and services that changed the way billions of users communicate all over the world. The fast adoption of such technologies has also surfaced new performance bottlenecks, as well as privacy and security threats unseen in previous networked technologies.

My research is particularly focused on conducting analytical measurements of real-world networked systems, with a strong interest in understanding the performance, privacy and security challenges present in emerging mobile technologies such as mobile networks, mobile apps and IoT. I engage and collaborate with users, cyber-activists, industry and regulators to identify and address practical problems of societal, industrial and academic interest from a practical angle.

Selected projects:

The list below summarizes my main active research projects:

Haystack Project: As the Internet becomes increasingly personalized and ubiquitous, millions of users become vulnerable to security and privacy violations inflicted by the many parties conforming the mobile ecosystem. Moreover, it is unclear how mobile applications behave at the traffic-level: which network protocols do they use? Are they correctly and efficiently used? The Haystack project aims to promote mobile transparency and illuminate unknown performance, privacy and security aspects of mobile apps using cuting-edge on-device traffic measurements through the Lumen Android app. The project is sponsored by the NSF.

AppCensus Project: A mobile app auditing platform and a web portal for understanding the behavior and privacy implications of mobile applications. Visit AppCensus.mobi for further details. In collaboration with Prof. David Choffnes' group at Northeastern University, we have also analyzed differences in privacy risks across app versions. You can visit the AppVersion tool for further details.

The oline tracking ecosystem: from the web browser to the mobile app. In this project, we analyze the different players involved in cross-platform tracking and their tracking techniques, developing solutions to promote online transparency, user control and awareness. This project is sponsored by a DataTransparencyLab grant.

Security and privacy analysis of the Android VPN ecosystem: Millions of users all over the world use VPN services to access geo-filtered content, to avoid surveillance or for privacy enhancement. However, are VPN services trustworthy? Do they compromise user's privacy?. The project is partially funded through an OTF fellowship.

Network measurements: We develop novel techniques for analyzing the performance and characteristics of networks. Since 2013, I've been involved in the Netalyzr project, a network troubleshooting tool and measurements platform that provides valuable data for research. Recently, we have explored new measurements opportunities like using ad networks.

Awards:

  • 2017. IRTF ANRP Award.
  • 2016. DataTransparencyLab Grant
  • 2015. Best paper award. ACM HotMiddlebox
  • 2015. Selected to attend NSF NeTS Early Career Workshop
  • 2014. Best short-paper award. ACM CoNEXT
  • 2013. Nominated for best paper award. ACM CoNEXT
  • 2012. Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship