Computer Sciences Dept.

Kevin Alejandro Roundy

I graduated with a Ph.D. in May 2012, when I joined Symantec Research Labs, now known as NortonLifeLock Research Group (NRG). I have been there ever since, where I continue to be a researcher and Technical Director for our group, living in the Los Angeles area. My research has resulted in many new deployed detection algorithms that identify millions of malicious and benign software files each day on behalf of our customers. I am particularly proud of work we have done to protect survivors of intimate partner violence from mobile apps that abusers to harass them and to turn survivors' cellphones into sophisticated spying devices. We have also invested in research that considers the human factors that influence consumer security and privacy.
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Dissertation Topic:

I have a background in machine learning and database research, but my Ph.D. research focuses on building tools that make challenging malware analysis tasks easier to solve. Suppose you were a security analyst at a big firm and someone dropped a nasty virus on you. Your task would be to quickly understand that piece of malware, to find out how it got into your system and what it did to you. I have extended the Dyninst Application Programming Interface so that you can take a program in its final binary version, without needing source code, even if it's evasive, defensive malware like the virus in our example, and: find its code, analyze it, modify it, and control its execution. Dyninst is a well-stocked toolbox that makes it easy for people like software engineers and security analysts to quickly build customized test suites and analysis tools. The most important tools in our box are control- and data-flow analyses, and binary instrumentation.

If you were the security analyst in my example and needed to understand a nasty virus, you could build up an understanding of it from first principles, but this is not an easy task, since most malware strongly resists analysis. To find the code in the .exe file, you'd have to separate out the code bytes from a mixture of junk and data bytes. To understand the code, you have to clarify all of the obfuscations that malware authors use to hide its meaning. To monitor the malware's execution you have to circumvent its evasive techniques. And to observe its nasty hidden behaviors, you need mechanisms to help you control and manipulate the program's execution.

Today, security analysts really don't have the tools at their disposal that can help them accomplish all of these tasks, so they often do end up working out solutions from first principles, which requires them to hire expert analysts. But Dyninst has long been able to find code in uncooperative binaries, analyze and modify their code, and control their execution. My primary research contribution has been to extend Dyninst to make its full capabilities available on malware, even if it's highly defensive and evasive.

Now, if analyzing a single nasty virus is a daunting task, consider what it's like for analysts at security companies. One of their biggest challenges is understanding and categorizing, literally thousands of new malware samples that get created each day. Dyninst provides the tools needed to build malware analysis factories that automate this process. The analyst tells Dyninst what analyses it wants to run, what behaviors to log, and how to control the programs. The analysis factory then executes the malware samples in an isolated environment and produces the desired reports for each sample. These factories are really easy to build, and we've implemented an example factory to serve as a starting point, that security analysts can easily customize.

Kevin A. Roundy, Paula Bermaimon Mendelberg, Nicola Dell, Damon McCoy, Daniel Nissani, Thomas Ristenpart, Acar Tamersoy. The Many Kinds of Creepware Used for Interpersonal Attacks To appear in IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy May 18-20, 2020. San Francisco, California. [PDF]

Technology increasingly facilitates interpersonal attacks such as stalking, abuse, and other forms of harassment. While prior studies have examined the ecosystem of software designed for stalking, our study uncovers a larger landscape of apps---what we call creepware---used for interpersonal attacks. We discover and report on apps used for harassment, impersonation, fraud, information theft, concealment, hacking, and other attacks, as well as creative defensive apps that victims use to protect themselves.
Yixin Zou, Kevin A. Roundy, Acar Tamersoy, Saurabh Shintre, Johann Roturier, Florian Schaub Examining the Adoption and Abandonment of Security, Privacy, and Identity Theft Protection Practices. To appear in ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2020) April 26-29, 2020. Honolulu, HI.

Our online survey of 902 individuals studies the reasons for which users struggle to adhere to expert-recommended security, privacy, and identity-protection practices. We examined 30 of these practices, finding that gender, education, technical background, and prior negative experiences correlate with practice adoption levels. We found that practices were abandoned when they were perceived as low-value, inconvenient, or when overridden by subjective judgment. We discuss how tools and expert recommendations can better align to user needs.
Molly Davies, Daniel Marino, Amelia Nash, Kevin A. Roundy, Mahmood Sharif, Acar Tamersoy. Training Older Adults to Resist Scams with Fraud Bingo and Scam Detection Challenges To appear in Designing Interactions for the Ageing Populations Workshop at CHI April 25, 2020. Honolulu, HI.
Saurabh Shintre, Kevin A. Roundy, and Jasjeet Dhaliwal. Making Machine Learning Forget. ENISA Annual Privacy Forum (APF) June 13-14, 2019. Rome, Italy. [PDF]

We specifically analyze how the “right-to-be-forgotten” provided by the European Union General Data Protection Regulation can be implemented on current machine learning models and which techniques can be used to build future models that can forget. This document also serves as a call-to-action for researchers and policy-makers to identify other technologies that can be used for this purpose.
Mahmood Sharif, Kevin A. Roundy, Matteo Dell'Amico, Christopher Gates, Daniel Kats, Lujo Bauer, Nicolas Christin. A Field Study of Computer-Security Perceptions Using Anti-Virus Customer-Support Chats. Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI). Glasgow, Scotland, UK. May 4-9, 2019. [PDF]

To identify needs for improvement in security products, we study security concerns raised in Norton Security customer support chats. We found that many consumers face technical support scams and are susceptible to them. Findings also show the value of customer support centers in that 96% of customers that reach out for support in relation to scams have not paid the scammers.
David Silva, Matteo Dell'Amico, Michael Hart, Kevin A. Roundy, Daniel Kats. Hierarchical Incident Clustering for Security Operation Centers. Interactive Data Exploration and Analytics (IDEA) @ KDD. London, England, UK. 19 August 2018. [PDF]

We enable security incident responders to dispatch multiple similar security incidents at once through an intuitive user interface. The heart of our algorithm is a visualized hierarchical clustering technique that enables responders to identify the appropriate level of cluster granularity at which to dispatch multiple incidents.

Kevin A. Roundy, Matteo Dell'Amico, Michael Hart, Daniel Kats, Robert Scott, Michael Spertus, Acar Tamersoy. Smoke Detector: Cross-Product Intrusion Detection With Weak Indicators. Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC). Orlando, Florida, USA. December 4-8, 2017. [PDF]

Smoke Detector significantly expands upon limited collections of hand-labeled security incidents by framing event data as relationships between events and machines, and performing random walks to rank candidate security incidents. Smoke Detector significantly increases incident detection coverage for mature Managed Security Service Providers.
Shang-Tse Chen, Yufei Han, Duen Horng Chau, Christopher Gates, Michael Hart, Kevin A. Roundy. Predicting Cyber Threats with Virtual Security Products. Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC). Orlando, Florida, USA. December 4-8, 2017. [PDF]

We set out to predict which security events and incidents a security product would have detected had it been deployed, based on the events produced by other security products that were in place. We discovered that the problem is tractable, and that some security products are much harder to model than others, which makes them more valuable.
Robert Pienta, Fred Hohman, Alex Endert, Acar Tamersoy, Kevin Roundy, Chris Gates, Shamkant Navathe, Duen Horng (Polo) Chau. VIGOR: Interactive Visual Exploration of Graph Query Results. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics (VAST). Phoenix, Arizona, USA. 1-6 October, 2017. [PDF]

We present VIGOR, a novel interactive visual analytics system, for exploring and making sense of graph query results. VIGOR contributes an exemplar-based interaction technique and a feature-aware subgraph result summarization. Through a collaboration with Symantec, we demonstrate how VIGOR helps tackle real-world cybersecurity problems.
Kyle Soska, Chris Gates, Kevin A. Roundy, and Nicolas Christin. Automatic Application Identification from Billions of Files. Applied Data Science Paper. ACM SIGKDD Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining (KDD). Halifax, Nova Scotia. August 13-17, 2017. [PDF]

Mapping binary files into software packages enables malware detection and other tasks, but is challenging. By combining installation data with file metadata that we summarize into sketches, from millions of machines and billions of files, we can use efficient approximate clustering techniques to map files to applications automatically and reliably.
Bo Li, Kevin Roundy, Chris Gates, Yevgeniy Vorobeychik. Large-Scale Identification of Malicious Singleton Files. Full Paper. 7th ACM Conference on Data and Application Security and Privacy (CODASPY), Acceptance Rate 16%. Scottsdale, AZ. March 22-24, 2017. [PDF]

94% of the software files that Symantec saw in a 1-year dataset appeared only once on a single machine. We examine the primary reasons for which both benign and malicious software files appear as singletons, and design a classifier to distinguish between these two classes of singleton software files.
Sucheta Soundarajan, Acar Tamersoy, Elias Khalil, Tina Eliassi-Rad, Duen Horng Chau, Brian Gallagher and Kevin Roundy. Generating Graph Snapshots from Streaming Edge Data. Poster Paper. 25th International World Wide Web Conference (WWW) Montreal, Canada. Apr 11-15, 2016. [PDF].

We study the problem of determining the proper aggregation granularity for a stream of time-stamped edges. To this end, we propose ADAGE and demonstrate its value in automatically finding the appropriate aggregation intervals on edge streams for belief propagation to detect malicious files and machines.
Acar Tamersoy, Kevin A. Roundy, and Duen Horng (Polo) Chau. Guilt By Association: Large Scale Malware Detection by Mining File-Relation Graphs. Industrial Track. ACM SIGKDD Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining (KDD). New York City, NY. August 24-27, 2014. [PDF]

We present AESOP, a scalable algorithm that identifies malicious executable files by leveraging a novel combination of locality-sensitive hashing and belief propagation. AESOP attained early labeling of 99% of benign files and 79% of malicious files with a 0.9961 true positive rate at 0.0001 false positive rate.
Kevin A. Roundy and Barton P. Miller. Binary-Code Obfuscations in Prevalent Packer Tools, ACM Computing Surveys (CSUR) Volume 46 Issue 1, October 2013. [PDF]
This work was partially funded by a grant from PC Antivirus Reviews.
Kevin A. Roundy Hybrid Analysis and Control of Malicious Code, Ph.D. Dissertation, deposited on May 2nd, 2012. [PDF]
Andrew R. Bernat, Kevin A. Roundy, and Barton P. Miller. Efficient, Sensitivity Resistant Binary Instrumentation, International Symposium on Software Testing and Analysis (ISSTA). Toronto, Canada, July 2011. [PDF]
Kevin A. Roundy and Barton P. Miller. Hybrid Analysis and Control of Malware Binaries, Recent Advances in Intrusion Detection (RAID), Ottawa, Canada, September 2010. [PDF]

Professional Service:

ACSAC Steering Committee and Posters / Works in Progress Chair in 2019-2020 and Program Committee Member from 2018-2020,
Deep Learning and Security Workshop Program Committee @ IEEE S&P 2018-2020,
SecDev Practitioners Program Committee 2018-2019,
and Interactive Data Exploration and Analytics Workshop (IDEA) @ KDD from 2016-2018.

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