Team at Pindrop receives ‘Test of Time’ Award at ACM CCS 2020

A Georgia Tech a faculty member and an alumnus are being honored with a Test of Time Award. Mustaque Ahamad and Vijay Balasubramaniyan received the ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS) award for their paper on Pindrop.

Ahamad is a professor in the College of Computing and Pindrop co-founder and chief scientist. Along with being a Georgia Tech alumnus, Balasubramaniyan is co-founder and CEO of Pindrop.

The paper, titled PinDr0p: Using Single-Ended Audio Features to Determine Call Provenance, was a team effort supported by Balasubramaniyan, Ahamad, Aamir PoonawallaMichael T. Hunter, and Patrick Traynor. According to Balasubramaniyan, it has had a significant impact on security research and practice.

“We are so honored to have received this award,” said Balasubramaniyan. “This shows the impact this research has had in a world of instant gratification.”

Published in 2010, the research details the team’s novel approach to identifying and characterizing networks used to make calls in order to create detailed fingerprints for a call’s source. This approach can distinguish between calls made using cellular, internet, or land lines from locations across the world with over 90 percent accuracy, which is the first step in accurately determining the provenance of a call.

Pindrop was inspired by a trip to India and a call from Balasubramaniyan’s bank to verify a charge to one of his credit accounts.

“I received a call to verify a transaction,” said Balasubramaniyan. “They wanted information to verify my identity — social security number and date of birth — however, I wanted to verify that it was truly the bank calling me.”

The idea took off from there and the team now works with eight of the top 10 national banks and continues to expand its research features­ — now at over 1,300.

"We're building on research that is now established as a Test of Time paper," said Balasubramaniyan. "It's really amazing."

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