First day in the lab

Today was my first proper day in the Networks, Systems and Security Lab (NSS) at UBC. I'd picked a seat out yesterday afternoon, though by the time I got there most of my lab mates had already left for the evening. Today, I stopped by at 2:30pm and was pleased to meet several more of my lab mates. They're great people.

We're all working on different things, so there isn't a huge amount of collaboration by way of the projects themselves. Naturally, I assume much of the work they're doing is as of yet private in nature, so I won't be disclosing details about their specific research projects. That being said, there is a lot of cool stuff going on in the NSS lab.

I'll be honest, I didn't get a huge amount done today at the lab itself, though I think that's pretty normal when it's your first day meeting people that you'll be working alongside for the next 4-8 months. Instead, I was grateful to have the chance to chat with a bunch of lab mates about a wide variety of topics, including SSL/TLS certifications, Diffie-Hellman, MITM attacks, Tor routing, Paxos (which I pretended to understand), graduate school, real estate prices, tech salaries, and how we're going to rearrange some of the furniture in the lab to make it look nicer.

Over the past two weeks I've been working hard on preparing my proposal, followed by preparing a presentation for my advisors on the problem area, the existing solution space, and my proposed research impact. I didn't really expect to have to do this much research before formally starting, though I honestly don't mind it at all. Being challenged on various elements of the proposal has been extremely helpful in pushing me to explore and investigate both existing solutions and previous research done in the topic.

But what is the topic, you ask? Yes, of course. In a broad sense, I'm working in browser privacy and security. In a more specific sense, I'm looking at how we can better defend against various types of super cookies and device fingerprinting. Some day I might post my proposal here, though since it's bound to be iterated upon, what I might do instead is write a series of posts about the different aspects of these two fascinating yet often diabolical techniques.

I don't really expect anyone in the NSS lab to have a huge amount to offer by way of knowledge of the problem area. However, I am encouraged to have the opportunity to sit down and chat regularly with a bunch of graduate students who are working on equally exciting projects, and who don't mind spending a few minutes talking about interesting topics in technology. Oh, and having my own desk on campus is nice, too!