Welcome!

News Feed Item

Hold That Yak: NYU Researchers Discover Clues For Identifying Yik Yak Users On College Campuses

BROOKLYN, N.Y., Oct. 19, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Experiments by researchers at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering and NYU Shanghai have successfully cracked the veil of anonymity in Yik Yak, an ostensibly anonymous social media application.

NYU Tandon School of Engineering Logo (PRNewsFoto/NYU Tandon School of Engineering)

Yik Yak thrives on anonymity. Whether it's praise for a local restaurant or, in a darker use of the application, a complaint or bullying comment about teachers or peers, Yik Yak users trust that their words are untraceable. Even Yik Yak's new policy requiring user pseudonyms preserves anonymity.

Yik Yak is particularly popular on college campuses and has drawn criticism as a tool for harassment. The app has been downloaded more than a million times on Android mobile devices alone.

Keith Ross, the Leonard J. Shustek Distinguished Professor of Computer Science at NYU Tandon and Dean of Engineering and Computer Science at NYU Shanghai, will present the paper, You Can Yak but You Can't Hide: Localizing Anonymous Social Network Users, at the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) Internet Measurements Conference in Santa Monica, California, this November.

Ross, his students, and colleagues from East China Normal University tested Yik Yak's susceptibility to localization attacks, reasoning that if it is possible to locate the geographical origin of a comment, or "yak," as it is commonly known, it may be possible to identify the person who posted it.

Experiments showed that yaks can, in fact, be localized through a fairly simple machine learning algorithm that an undergraduate computer science student could program and run in a matter of hours.

Ross and his collaborators localized yaks to within 300 feet and in one experiment identified the college dormitories from which yaks originated with 100 percent accuracy. 

"The integrity of user anonymity is central to Yik Yak and similar anonymous social media apps, and this research shows that it's possible for a third party to compromise it," Ross said. "At this stage, we can narrow down a location to a building, which when combined with other side information could potentially de-anonymize the author of any given yak."

Ross and his team, which includes East China Normal University Professor Haifeng Qian and doctoral student Minhui Xue, and NYU Shanghai undergraduates Cameron Ballard, Kelvin Liu, Carson Nemelka, and Yanqiu Wu, conducted their experiments from Shanghai. They deployed Yik Yak on two U.S. college campuses using a common technique to trick the GPS in a smartphone into believing it was on those campuses. This was important because a yak appears only on smartphones in the vicinity of where the yak is sent.

The researchers designed an automated system to "place" themselves (through GPS coordinates) at many different locations in and around the campuses and record which yaks were available at each location. The system then used machine learning to process the recorded data to predict where each of the yaks was posted.

Ross explained that college students often post disparaging yaks about professors or fellow students. "It wouldn't be difficult for a professor to figure out the dorm from which a derogatory yak was posted, then couple this information with student housing information to de-anonymize the yak, and that's concerning," he said. 

The researchers note that their experiments used the same public information collected by other users of Yik Yak, and that they attempted to analyze only the location of messages generated by members of the research team. No outside participants were involved.

Ross and his colleague informed Yik Yak about the potential for localization attacks and recommended several potential privacy enhancements. Among them is improving localization authentication for users, which would make it easier to identify and block users employing forged GPS coordinates. Another strategy would be for Yik Yak to always display the exact same set of messages no matter where the app is being used on a campus.

About the NYU Tandon School of Engineering
The NYU Tandon School of Engineering dates to 1854, when the New York University School of Civil Engineering and Architecture as well as the Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute (widely known as Brooklyn Poly) were founded. Their successor institutions merged in January 2014 to create a comprehensive school of education and research in engineering and applied sciences, rooted in a tradition of invention, and entrepreneurship and dedicated to furthering technology in service to society. In addition to its main location in Brooklyn, NYU Tandon collaborates with other schools within the country's largest private research university and is closely connected to engineering programs in NYU Abu Dhabi and NYU Shanghai. It operates business incubators in downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn and an award-winning online graduate program. For more information, visit http://engineering.nyu.edu.

facebook.com/nyutandon 
@nyupoly

Logo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20151013/276541LOGO

 

To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/hold-that-yak-nyu-researchers-discover-clues-for-identifying-yik-yak-users-on-college-campuses-300347109.html

SOURCE NYU Tandon School of Engineering

More Stories By PR Newswire

Copyright © 2007 PR Newswire. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PRNewswire content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of PRNewswire. PRNewswire shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

Latest Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that SIGMA Corporation will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. uLaser flow inspection device from the Japanese top share to Global Standard! Then, make the best use of data to flip to next page. For more information, visit http://www.sigma-k.co.jp/en/.
Most of the time there is a lot of work involved to move to the cloud, and most of that isn't really related to AWS or Azure or Google Cloud. Before we talk about public cloud vendors and DevOps tools, there are usually several technical and non-technical challenges that are connected to it and that every company needs to solve to move to the cloud. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Stefano Bellasio, CEO and founder of Cloud Academy Inc., will discuss what the tools, disciplines, and cultural...
Why Federal cloud? What is in Federal Clouds and integrations? This session will identify the process and the FedRAMP initiative. But is it sufficient? What is the remedy for keeping abreast of cutting-edge technology? In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rasananda Behera will examine the proposed solutions: Private or public or hybrid cloud Responsible governing bodies How can we accomplish?
SYS-CON Events announced today that N3N will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. N3N’s solutions increase the effectiveness of operations and control centers, increase the value of IoT investments, and facilitate real-time operational decision making. N3N enables operations teams with a four dimensional digital “big board” that consolidates real-time live video feeds alongside IoT sensor data a...
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to w...
SYS-CON Events announced today that NetApp has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. NetApp is the data authority for hybrid cloud. NetApp provides a full range of hybrid cloud data services that simplify management of applications and data across cloud and on-premises environments to accelerate digital transformation. Together with their partners, NetApp em...
Real IoT production deployments running at scale are collecting sensor data from hundreds / thousands / millions of devices. The goal is to take business-critical actions on the real-time data and find insights from stored datasets. In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Walicki, Watson IoT Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud, will provide a fast-paced developer journey that follows the IoT sensor data from generation, to edge gateway, to edge analytics, to encryption, to the IBM Bluemix cloud, to Wa...
With the rise of DevOps, containers are at the brink of becoming a pervasive technology in Enterprise IT to accelerate application delivery for the business. When it comes to adopting containers in the enterprise, security is the highest adoption barrier. Is your organization ready to address the security risks with containers for your DevOps environment? In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Chris Van Tuin, Chief Technologist, NA West at Red Hat, will discuss: The top security r...
There is huge complexity in implementing a successful digital business that requires efficient on-premise and cloud back-end infrastructure, IT and Internet of Things (IoT) data, analytics, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Digital Applications. In the data center alone, there are physical and virtual infrastructures, multiple operating systems, multiple applications and new and emerging business and technological paradigms such as cloud computing and XaaS. And then there are pe...
SYS-CON Events announced today that B2Cloud will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. B2Cloud specializes in IoT devices for preventive and predictive maintenance in any kind of equipment retrieving data like Energy consumption, working time, temperature, humidity, pressure, etc.
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real r...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
Your clients expect transactions to never fail, cloud access to be fast and always on, and their data to be protected - no exceptions. Hear about how Secure Service Container (SSC), an IBM-exclusive open technology, enables secure building and hosting of next-generation applications, both cloud and on-premises. SSC protects the full stack from external and insider threats, allows automatic encryption of data in-flight and at-rest, and is tamper-resistant during installation and runtime – with no...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks, that helps your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. As a premier telecommunications provider, Massive Networks is headquartered out of Louisville, Colorado. With years of experience under their belt, their team of...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Suzuki Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Suzuki Inc. is a semiconductor-related business, including sales of consuming parts, parts repair, and maintenance for semiconductor manufacturing machines, etc. It is also a health care business providing experimental research for...