Yang, a member of the Systems and Architecture faculty, joined Duke in 2008 as an assistant professor of computer science. Previously, she was an assistant professor at the University of California at Irvine. She is currently on sabbatical.
Yang’s research focus in networking includes Internet security, routing, resource allocation and data center networking. She currently is a member of a national team working on the National Science Foundation’s Future Internet Architecture Project.
“The goal is to design the Internet for the future,” Yang said. “Basically the Internet was designed in the 1960s for researchers to share files, but there are many kinds of challenges that we see today that were not resolved at that time, like security. The Internet is vulnerable to many attacks today.”
In addition to defense against malicious attacks, Computer Science Chairman Carlo Tomasi noted that fair cost-sharing and message traffic congestion were theoretical considerations left to a few visionaries in 1969.
“Now, four decades later, these are among the key problems in keeping the Internet running effectively,” he said, “and Xiaowei works on them as one of a small elite of top-notch researchers in networking systems.”
In 2009, Yang won an NSF Career Award to investigate how to address the security vulnerabilities of the Internet.
Her group at Duke also has been working on social network security, focusing on how to efficiently identify fake accounts. In applying their algorithm on a large scale for a leading social network in Spain (Tuenti), they were able to detect fake accounts with an accuracy of more than 90 percent, much higher than the current 5 percent accuracy of manual detection.
In collaboration with researchers at Microsoft, Yang’s group also is trying to develop algorithms to automatically mitigate failures in datacenter networks. When detected, the faulty components can be shut down without any noticeable service degradation because of the built-in redundancy in datacenter networks.
Another recent research project is comparing the costs and performance of various public cloud providers. As an offshoot of the research, a comparison of public cloud computing providers by Yang’s group has helped large commercial providers uncover performance problems and has provided benchmarking tools for consumers to use when choosing a provider.
Yang is also a faculty mentor of the Duke Chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery — Women in Computing, which provides a venue for female students to share experiences and speak with role models.
“Xiaowei cares deeply about diversity at Duke,” Tomasi said. “We are proud to have Xiaowei among us, and we are grateful for all she does for our department.”