Wright to study incentive-compatible protocols through NSF grant

09/16/05

Stevens and SUNY Buffalo will collaborate on reseach

HOBOKEN, N.J. -- Dr. Rebecca Wright, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Stevens Institute of Technology, was awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Cyber Trust program. The project, which will study an intermediate notion of security known as incentive compatibility, is a collaboration between Wright and Dr. Sheng Zhong at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Stevens and SUNY Buffalo will each receive $212,500 over three years, for a total award of $425,000 from the NSF. Dr. Zhong was a postdoctoral research associate at Stevens from September 2004 to July 2005.

Wireless technologies and mobile computing devices have changed communication. Many communications protocols are designed to work efficiently if all participants follow their specified instructions, but do not function properly if participants cheat. On the other hand, solutions that are robust against arbitrary misbehavior incur a high performance penalty.

"Incentive compatibility borrows ideas from economics and game theory," said Wright, "and is a more finely tunable notion of security than traditional security models, allowing for different kinds of participants motivated by different incentives." In many settings, users will tend to act in their own best interests. By designing and using protocols that are incentive-compatible, in which following the protocol produces outcomes for participants at least as good as deviating from the protocol, it would be possible to avoid misbehavior in many settings. "Weaker security goals are more achievable," said Wright, "but they often underestimate the willingness of participants to cheat." The research will concentrate on four areas: incentive-compatible ad hoc networks, incentive-compatible data mining (both of which can significantly benefit from introducing incentive-compatible solutions), testing tools for incentive compatibility and foundations of incentive compatibility.

"The rapid expansion of the Internet has changed the way we communicate, with ever-increasing aspects of our daily life involving computation and data communication," said Wright. "For a broad range of applications where participants are benefit-driven, incentive compatibility captures the expected behavior of participants. This allows incentive-compatible protocols to provide the right level of security at the right cost."

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