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Strengthening the Internet 22 February 2021

The Best and the Brightest Security and Privacy Experts Are Gathering Virtually at NDSS 2021

Karen O'Donoghue
By Karen O'DonoghueDirector, Internet Trust and Technology

The 28th consecutive Network and Distributed System Security Symposium (NDSS 2021) kicks off today. NDSS is a premier academic research conference addressing a wide range of topics on network and system security. It’s an incubator for new, innovative ideas and research on the security and privacy of the Internet.

NDSS 2021, which takes place 21-25 February, will be one of the biggest NDSS symposia yet, featuring two keynotes, 90 peer-reviewed academic papers, six co-located workshops, and 19 posters focusing on vital and timely topics. All of this will happen virtually for the first time!

Here are some of the highlights.


This year’s program officially started yesterday with three workshops on Sunday, 21 February. NDSS workshops are organized around a single topic and provide an opportunity for greater dialogue between researchers and practitioners in the area.

The Binary Analysis Research (BAR) Workshop returns for its fourth year at NDSS. Binary analysis refers to the process where humans and automated systems examine underlying code in software to discover, exploit, and defend against vulnerabilities. With the enormous and ever-increasing amount of software in the world today, formalized and automated methods of analysis are vital to improving security. This workshop will emphasize the importance of releasing and sharing artifacts that can be used to reproduce results in papers and can be used as a basis for further research and development.

The DNS Privacy DNSPriv) Workshop returns to NDSS after a two year gap. This workshop will allow participants to contribute to the accelerating progress of DNS privacy technologies and deployment throughout the Internet. It aims to bring together a quorum to discuss these technologies, both established and emerging. Special focus will be on new measurements of encrypted DNS, and also the contributions that DNS privacy makes in civil society applications, in conjunction with related and newer technology. The program will be a mixture of accepted and invited talks, and open discussion.

The Call for Innovative Secure IT Technologies against COVID-19 (CornaDef) Workshop is an NDSS co-located workshop. The main goal is to collect and evaluate innovative ideas and interdisciplinary proposals for using digital technologies to complement current efforts in fighting the pandemic created by the COVID-19, as well as to develop concrete practical proposals for solutions to various related problems. Security and privacy researchers have developed many tools that can be integrated in IT solutions for disaster management as well as to protect the data generated by those disaster management tools.

The final day of NDSS 2021 will feature three more full-day workshops on Thursday, 25 February.

The third international Automotive and Autonomous Vehicle Security (AutoSec) Workshop 2021 is making its debut at NDSS. Ground and aerial vehicles, such as cars, buses, trucks, airplanes, and drones make the whole world convenient and connected. Due to their wide usage and high safety criticality, any security/privacy problems in them pose direct threats to users and stakeholders in transportation. To meet this critical need, this workshop is organized to bring together audiences, including university researchers, scientists, and industry professionals, to contribute to new theories, technologies, and systems related to security and privacy challenges in automobiles, aerial vehicles, and their supporting infrastructures, especially for their emerging autonomy and connectivity technologies.

The Learning from Authoritative Security Experiment Results (LASER) Workshop focuses on learning from and improving cybersecurity experimental results. The workshop seeks to foster a dramatic change in the experimental paradigm for cybersecurity research, improving the overall quality and reporting of practiced science. As such, it will be structured as a true “workshop” in the sense that it will focus on discussions and interactions around the topic of experimental methodologies, execution, and results, with the goal of encouraging improvements in experimental science in cybersecurity research. Authors will lead the group in a discussion of the experimental aspects of their respective efforts.

The Workshop on Measurements, Attacks and Defenses for the Web (MADWeb) Workshop returns this year for its third year at NDSS. The Web connects billions of devices, running numerous types of clients, and serves billions of users every day. To cope with such a widespread adoption, the Web constantly changes. MADWeb is looking to connect researchers working at the intersection of browser evolution and web security. The goal is to bring together a community to discuss the rapid changes to browsers from a security perspective, the security implications of current web technologies, and how we can make browsers in the future more secure without hindering the evolution of the web.


NDSS 2021 is very pleased to feature two keynotes this year. The first day will feature Diana L. Burley, PhD. She holds three roles at American University: Vice Provost for Research, Professor of Public Administration and Policy in the School of Public Affairs, and Professor of Information Technology & Analytics in the Kogod School of Business. The second day will feature Gavin O’Gorman, manager of the Attack Investigations Team (AIT) at Symantec.

Dr. Burley will talk about Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Integrity and how initiatives in these areas are driven by social and professional imperatives. Building inclusive environments is both right and, as data increasingly shows, profitable. They also have real implications for system integrity. Given the current climate, how do we effectively diversify the workforce, advance more equitable and inclusive environments, and promote overall system integrity?

Gavin O’Gorman will talk about the recent Solarwinds attack. Active for at least 10 months prior to discovery, compromising up to 18,000 computers during that time, including government, security vendor and technology companies, the Solarwinds attack brought supply chain compromises to mainstream attention. Such attacks are not new however, with several notable attacks in recent years, and numerous similar attacks having been performed against South Korea over the last 10 years. During this talk he will cover some of this supply chain attack history, as well as go into detail on the Solarwinds attack, including the timeline, what tools were deployed, and how they were used.

NDSS 2021 Papers

The star and indeed the core of NDSS 2021 is the final set of peer-reviewed academic papers to be presented and published. This year there are 90 peer-reviewed papers organized into 21 sessions, representing less than 20% of the original submissions. This year there were well over roughly 570 submissions during both a summer and a fall submission periods. A program committee of 102 experts assisted by 139 external reviewers worked to select and shepherd the accepted papers to this result. Topics cover a wide range including authentication, cryptography, censorship, network security, privacy, IoT, and mobile and web security. Papers, slides, and videos of all the talks will eventually be available on the NDSS 2021 program page. The detailed agenda along with the abstracts and papers are already online!

Finally, NDSS 2021 also includes an energetic Poster Session and Social Hour featuring 19 posters of recently published or newly-emerging research. Attendees can view the posters, talk with the authors, and vote for their favorites all within our social platform for the meeting, Gather Town.

All of this fabulous content takes a huge effort by a large group of people. Special note should be given to the Program Committee along with the Organizing Committee. This is serious teamwork and collaboration in action!

NDSS is where the next generation of security research starts, and for almost 30 years, the Internet Society has been a proud partner in hosting this event. Over 700 security experts are gathering online this week to collaborate and engage in research discussion to help advance network and system security – all for the benefit of better security and a strong Internet.

Follow along via our social media channels – Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn – and don’t forget to use the #NDSS21 hashtag.

There is still time to register if you want to join the action. See you online!

Photo from NDSS2020 ©Richard Stonehouse

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Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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