Cryptography, Security, and Privacy (CrySP)

This speaker series is made possible by an anonymous charitable donation in memory of cypherpunks and privacy advocates Len Sassaman, Hugh Daniel, Hal Finney, and Caspar Bowden.

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Shadow: Scalable Simulation for Systems Security Research

Rob Jansen, Naval Research Laboratory

[Download (MP4)] [View on Youtube]

January 20, 2016 3:30pm, in DC 1304


Experimentation has long been a integral part of computer science security research. However, existing experimentation approaches are often lacking: new design proposals for and attacks against existing systems are challenging to test in a live network because of deployment issues and the risk of invading users’ privacy, while alternative experimentation techniques are limited in scale, are inaccurate, or create results that are difficult to reproduce or verify. In this talk, we will present the design and implementation of Shadow, a simulation engine for efficiently running accurate experiments on a single machine. To demonstrate Shadow’s powerful capabilities, we will show how it has been used to experiment with private Tor anonymity networks, present network validation results, and show how it scales to tens of thousands of nodes. We will also describe how Shadow has been used to enhance research in the area of privacy-enhancing technologies, and how distributed computing could help to improve the accuracy and efficacy of our experiments. Shadow is an open source project available for download at


Dr. Rob Jansen is a computer scientist in the Center for High Assurance Computer Systems at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. His research interests include: Distributed Systems; Security and Privacy; Anonymous Communication; and Parallel and Distributed Simulation. Rob is a self-proclaimed experimentalist because he considers himself as "one who prefers to ascertain by finding out."

Rob focuses on designing and building practical and useful systems and software, and therefore exploring tradeoffs between performance and security is often central to his work. Rob's research often results in re-usable prototypes that help further research and development, and often leads to protocol or algorithmic modifications in popular deployed systems.

Rob's work has been highlighted on blogs at the M.I.T. Tech Review, Ars Technica, Info Security Magazine, and the Tor Project, and has been presented at numerous, high-level research conferences. When he's not designing and simulating new systems or hacking on code, Rob jogs laps around the National Mall and through the streets of DC.