Shaamyl Anwar Tracks Sensitive Data Flow
For Muhammad Shaamyl Anwar, the fall 2020 semester of his sophomore year of college would be anything but “normal” for the Computer Science major who wanted to participate in independent research during the COVID pandemic with advisor and computer scientist, Prof. Ed Novak.
“I was not able to stay on campus and work as we normally would. Instead, I was able to find a place to live courtesy of some friends and meet with Professor Novak virtually and use tools like Github to program remotely and collaboratively,” says Shaamyl. “Because the infrastructure was already set up to work remotely at F&M in Computer Science, the experience was similar in its enrichment.”
“I would advise students to not be afraid, to be strong and flexible, because as unconventional as it (virtual research) may be, you’ll be able to have a great experience.”
The student researcher dove into his project, “Stigma: Portable Dynamic Information Flow Tracking (DIFT) for Android,” with the goal of implementing DIFT in Android, to modify apps so that how the phones are using consumer data can be tracked, and in turn, make them more secure.
“Using DIFT, we can analyze whether sensitive data flows to unwanted destinations (like to hackers or third-party servers), the frequency of these data leaks, and the content of these data leaks,” Shaamyl explains. “We can also prevent sensitive data leakage in real-time by notifying the user.”
Do not be afraid of approaching your Professor and asking “Are you doing any research and what should I learn if I want to be involved?” Professors love to talk about their interests with curious students!
Even when Shaamyl first started his college career at F&M, he was interested early on in exploring opportunities for learning Computer Science in a deeper way.
“Through being involved in this research, I was exposed to the skill of asking and exploring unanswered questions,” Shaamyl reflects. “At the end of the exploration, you may or may not arrive at an answer, but you will discover completely new, exciting, complex truths. This idea of exploring unanswered questions and discovering truths has made me seriously consider grad school when before college, I had no idea what grad school was!”