Plugging Security Leaks

0312_clouds2In addition to his research interests in cloud computing and waste data, UAB computer scientist Ragib Hasan, Ph.D., is focusing on one of the Web’s most popular sites: Wikipedia. Since 2005, he has been an administrator for both the English- and Bengali-language sections of the site.

Hasan is convinced that one of the greatest threats to Wikipedia is the practice of using false identities to deface or otherwise manipulate entries in the vast online encyclopedia, especially hot topics such as abortion or the conflict between India and Pakistan. “Wikipedia is built on discussion and consensus, but people can game the system by creating multiple fake identities,” Hasan explains. “That way they can create a fake majority and throw its support behind a position.”

Wikipedia deals with this threat by looking at the IP addresses of posters—the string of numbers that identifies unique computers connected to the Internet. “That doesn’t always work, though, because people can hide or switch their IP addresses,” Hasan says. “I’m working with Dr. Thamar Solario in the UAB Department of Computer and Information Sciences to create a tool that analyzes what people are saying in a discussion thread to identify individual users who are masquerading as other people.”


Secure Delivery: The ability to verify the source and history of digital documents is a major interest of businesses and governments. Hasan and UAB assistant professor of computer and information sciences Thamar Solorio, Ph.D., are exploring the use of secure identifiers for documents that can determine the data’s provenance. The research has attracted the attention of the U.S. Office of Naval Research, which recently awarded the team a three-year grant to support the project.

Matt Windsor

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