Cox, a member of the Systems and Architecture faculty, returned to Duke in fall 2005 as an assistant professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering. The Duke alumnus earned his bachelor of computer science and mathematics from the university in 1999 and completed his doctorate in computer science and engineering from the University of Michigan in 2005.
“Landon has already had a tremendous impact with his research on mobile and distributed computing,” Computer Science Chairman Carlo Tomasi said. “His work is not only highly regarded in his field but has attracted broad interest from the media in the U.S. and abroad. He inspires students to work in computer science and is a very active, positive and enthusiastic participant in the activities of our department. I am delighted by his promotion and look forward to further great ideas from him.”
Cox’s research focuses on monitoring and controlling the flow of privacy-sensitive data collected on mobile phones.
“There are very interesting privacy issues that go along with a device that you carry with you at all times,” he said. “We get all kinds of benefits from sharing our locations, but at the same time are we sharing too much? It’s a really hard question to answer.”
In addition to trying to find ways to protect mobile users’ privacy, Cox’s group also is working on a way to verify the authenticity of images that people capture on their phones. With the rise in citizen journalism these days, many images are making their way to the world stage. Cox believes he has a reasonable, although not yet perfect solution to verifying such photos. He’s optimistic that the hardware features his group’s YouProve software relies on will become more accessible from cellphone manufacturers in coming years.
Cox, who won a National Science Foundation Career Award in 2007 and is a member of the Intel Science and Technology Center for Secure Computing at UC Berkeley, said he returned to Duke because of the character and quality of its faculty.
“Duke and Durham have been wonderful for my family and me, and I can’t imagine being in a more supportive place,” he said.
He noted Duke allows young researchers to focus on their work, including offering teaching sabbaticals. The junior program allowed him to spend a semester in 2009 at Intel Labs Seattle, where he first started thinking about ideas for YouProve. The semester there also led to his involvement with TaintDroid, a phone-based tool that tracks how Android applications handle sensitive data.
“Those collaborations have been extremely rewarding,” Cox said. “And they would not have happened if the university did not have the junior sabbatical program.”
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