Written by Miranda Redenbaugh

Faculty and students from the Department of Computer Science came away with some big wins at this year’s USENIX Security Symposium, including two Distinguished Paper Awards and the 2023 Internet Defense Prize. USENIX Security is one of the most prestigious academic conferences in the field of computer security and privacy, with thousands of papers submitted each year from around the world.

The Glaze Project, originating out of UChicago’s SAND Lab and headed by Neubauer Professors of Computer Science Ben Zhao and Heather Zheng, was chosen for both the Internet Defense Prize and a Distinguished Paper Award for its ability to protect artist’s work from being replicated. The tool applies a “cloak” to images that disrupts generative models that try to mimic an artist’s specific style. Since its initial release in March, Glaze has seen over 1 million global downloads, and a new Glaze web service has signed up 1700 artists in 2 weeks.

The Internet Defense Prize is sponsored in part by Meta and celebrates the contributions made by researchers to protect the security of the Internet. Glaze has been featured heavily in the media since its rollout earlier this year, including appearances on New York Times, BBC, Fortune, and CNN.

“We are overwhelmed and humbled by the support Glaze has received from the creative artist community. The Internet Defense Prize is further validation of how important it is for technologists like us to consider the ethical ramifications of our work and to mitigate harms by building and deploying tools.”

A team from Associate Professor Blase Ur’s SUPERgroup received the Distinguished Paper Award for research on the vulnerability of the university’s passwords to attacks leveraging password reuse. These sorts of attacks are possible when a UChicago affiliate creates an account on some other service (e.g., LinkedIn) using a password that is similar to their UChicago password, and then that other service suffers a data breach. The researchers found that thousands of UChicago accounts were vulnerable to such attacks. These vulnerabilities often lasted for years and had sometimes been actively exploited by attackers. The work was a first-of-its-kind collaboration between the researchers and the University of Chicago’s Identity Management team. This collaboration produced both academic knowledge that will help other organizations protect their accounts and resulted in thousands of UChicago user accounts no longer being vulnerable to hackers.

In reference to the three awards, Ur felt it set the tone for the future of the department’s research: “It’s outstanding recognition that we’ve built our department into one of the top places in the world for computer security research.”

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