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UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering

Tech Review Taps Sumeet Singh for TR35

Sumeet Singh 
Sumeet Singh named to TR35 list for 2006.
September 8, 2006 – Sumeet Singh has been named one of the nation’s top 35 innovators under age 35 by MIT’s Technology Review magazine. Singh is being honored for research he started as a Ph.D. student in Computer Science and Engineering at UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering. The project yielded a new way to identify worm and virus attacks across the Internet or other high-speed networks almost as soon as outbreaks occur.

In addition to developing the fundamental approach – called “content sifting” – Singh was instrumental in transitioning these ideas from the lab to the marketplace. In the summer of 2004, he put his Ph.D. on hold to co-found Netsift, Inc. – a company acquired only a year later by Cisco Systems Inc. for approximately $30 million in cash and options. Sumeet currently works at Cisco Systems Inc.

“When Sumeet created the early prototypes in 2004, nearly instantaneous identification of a worm or virus outbreak across a network was widely viewed as an impossible problem,” said Stefan Savage, a professor of Computer Science and Engineering at UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering and a former NetSift, Inc. consultant.

Sumeet’s contribution to this open problem in network security, however, demonstrated that you can filter heavy network traffic and both identify outbreaks almost as soon as they occur and generate a “fingerprint” or signature of the virus or worm. These signatures, typically about 40 characters in length, can be used by network engineers to block the malicious traffic or otherwise contain the outbreak.

The algorithms search for strings of 1s and 0s that occur more frequently than you would expect based on usual network activity. Within this subset of network traffic, the algorithms look for communication patterns in which the same string of characters goes from many sources to many destinations, a rare pattern in network traffic that often indicates a virus or worm outbreak.

“Once you identify the strings, you can tell everyone, ‘If you see this, don’t let it through’,” explained George Varghese, co-founder of NetSift, Inc., and a professor of Computer Science and Engineering at UCSD’s Jacobs School of Engineering who has just finished a year-long stint at Cisco Systems Inc.

Varghese and Savage serve as Singh’s Ph.D. co-advisors.

As the team worked on their “content sifting” technology, they began to identify worms and viruses not yet been flagged by network security companies.

“In some cases, we detected and identified worms and viruses a few hours before existing security vendors. In other cases, we had them a few days before,” said Singh.

“This large project, which took me from UCSD to NetSift and then Cisco, grew out of a thought that almost seems simple in hindsight. Working through the intricacies with George and Stefan was a thought provoking and enriching experience.” said Singh.

While Singh and several other TR35 winners for 2006 focus on Internet-related issues, this year’s TR35 list also includes researchers working in the fields of telecommunications, nanotechnology, biotechnology, computer hardware, software, transportation and energy research.

According the Jason Pontin, Editor-in-Chief of Technology Review: “The TR35 is an amazing group of people. Their accomplishments are likely to shape their fields for decades to come.”

The honorees are selected by the editors of the magazine in collaboration with a prestigious panel of judges from major institutions and corporations.

The winners will be featured at the 2006 Emerging Technologies Conference at MIT.

UCSD engineers and participants in Calit2 have now been honored in five of the six years when Technology Review selected outstanding young innovators: Calit2 new-media artist Natalie Jeremijenko appeared in the inaugural 1999 roster; then-bioengineering professor Sangeeta Bhatia and former bioengineering grad student Christophe Schilling -- who co-founded Genomatica with professor Bernhard Palsson -- in 2003; computer science professor Serge Belongie in 2004; and bioengineering professor Trey Ideker in 2005. 

The 2006 TR35 list:

Apostolos Argyris, University of Athens
Prithwish Basu, BBN Technologies
Jeffery Bode, University of California, Santa Barbara
Edward Boyden, Stanford University
Seth Coe-Sullivan, QD Vision
Utkan Demirci, Harvard Medical School
Roger Dingledine, Moria Research Labs
Stefan Duma , Virginia Tech
Jason Fried, 37signals
Christina Galitsky, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Matthew Herren, EduVision
Song Jin, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Manolis Kellis, MIT
William King, Georgia Institute of Technology
Eddie Kohler, University of California, Los Angeles
Ram Krishnamurthy, Intel
Stéphanie Lacour, University of Cambridge
Ling Liao, Intel
Ashok Maliakal, Lucent Technologies’ Bell Laboratories
Jane McGonigal, 42 Entertainment
Joshua Napoli, Actuality Systems
Liam Paninski, Columbia University
Nikos Paragios, École Centrale Paris
Michael Raab, Agrivida
Paul Rademacher, Google
Anand Raghunathan, NEC Laboratories America
Joshua Schachter, (Yahoo)
Jay Shendure, Harvard Medical School
Sumeet Singh, Cisco Systems Inc.
Paris Smaragdis, Mitsubishi Electric Research Labs
Marin Soljačić, MIT
Alice Ting, MIT
Christopher Voigt, University of California, San Francisco
Michael Wong, Rice University
Ben Zhao, University of California, Santa Barbara

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Media Contacts

Denine Hagen
Jacobs School of Engineering
Phone: 858-534-2920 Barry Jagoda
University of California San Diego
Phone: 858-534-8567 Daniel Kane
Jacobs School of Engineering
Phone: 858-534-3262