The SEI Podcast Series will highlight the work of SEI researchers with different backgrounds, expertise, and interests. Some episodes will summarize the goals and results of advanced research projects at the cutting edge of science and technology. Other episodes will highlight the work of SEI technologists with customer-facing roles on applied, transition- and acquisition-oriented topics.
SEI Fellows Series: Peter Feiler
The position of SEI Fellow is awarded to people who have made an outstanding contribution of the work of the SEI and from home the SEI leadership may expect valuable advice for continued success in the institute’s mission. Peter Feiler was named an SEI Fellow in August 2016. This podcast is the second in a series highlighting interviews with SEI Fellows
NTP Best Practices
The network time protocol (NTP) synchronizes the time of a computer client or server to another server or within a few milliseconds of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). NTP servers, long considered a foundational service of the Internet, have more recently been used to amplify large-scale Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. While 2016 did not see a noticeable uptick in the frequency of DDoS attacks, the last 12 months have witnessed some of the largest DDoS attacks, according to Akamai's State of the Internet/Security report. One issue that attackers have exploited is abusable NTP servers. In 2014, there were over seven million abusable NTP servers. As a result of software upgrades, repaired configuration files, or the simple fact that ISPs and IXPs have decided to block NTP traffic, the number of abusable servers dropped by almost 99 percent in a matter months, according to a January 2015 article in ACM Queue. But there is still work to be done. It only takes 5,000 abusable NTP servers to generate a DDoS attack in the range of 50-400 Gbps. In this podcast, Timur Snoke explores the challenges of NTP and prescribes some best practices for securing accurate time with this protocol.
Establishing Trust in Disconnected Environments
First responders, search-and-rescue teams, and military personnel often work in “tactical edge” environments defined by limited computing resources, rapidly changing mission requirements, high levels of stress, and limited connectivity. In these tactical edge environments, software applications that enable tasks such as face recognition, language translation, decision support, and mission planning and execution are critical due to computing and battery limitations on mobile devices. Our work on tactical cloudlets addresses some of these challenges by providing a forward-deployed platform for computation offload and data staging.
When establishing communication between two nodes, such as a mobile device and a tactical cloudlet in the field, identification, authentication, and authorization provide the information and assurances necessary for the nodes to trust each other (i.e., mutual trust). A common solution for establishing trust is to create and share credentials in advance and then use an online trusted authority to validate the credentials of the nodes. The tactical environments in which first responders, search-and-rescue, and military personnel operate, however, do not consistently provide access to that online authority or certificate repository because they are disconnected, intermittent, limited (DIL). In this podcast, Grace Lewis presents a solution for establishing trusted identities in disconnected environments based on secure key generation and exchange in the field, as well as an evaluation and implementation of the solution.
Distributed Artificial Intelligence in Space
In 2014-2015, a group of researchers across various disciplines gathered at the Caltech Keck Institute for Space Studies (KISS) to explore whether recent advances in multifunctional, reconfigurable, and adaptive structures could enable a microenvironment control to support space exploration in extreme environments. The workshop series spawned multiple working groups and project ideas for pushing the state-of-the-art in space exploration, colonization and infrastructure. One such project, called the Multi-planetary Smart Tile, explores the possibility of creating a multi-functional power grid for the solar system that is capable of distributed computation, renewable power generation, and power beaming to remote locations. In this podcast, Dr. James Edmondson discusses his work to bring distributed artificial intelligence to a next generation, renewable power grid in space.
Verifying Distributed Adaptive Real-Time Systems
Making sure government and privately owned drones share international air space safely and effectively is a top priority for government officials. Distributed Adaptive Real-Time (DART) systems are key to many areas of Department of Defense (DoD) capability, including the safe execution of autonomous, multi-unmanned aerial systems missions having civilian benefits. DART systems promise to revolutionize several such areas of mutual civilian-DoD interest, such as robotics, transportation, energy, and health care. To fully realize the potential of DART systems, however, the software controlling them must be engineered for high-assurance and certified to operate safely and effectively. In short, these systems must satisfy guaranteed and highly-critical safety requirements (e.g., collision avoidance) while adapting smartly to achieve application requirements, such as protection coverage, while operating in dynamic and uncertain environments. In this podcast, James Edmondson and Sagar Chaki describe an architecture and approach to engineering high-assurance software for DART systems.