I am a fourth year Ph. D. student at UC Berkeley working in computer security. I got my B.A. in computer science and in mathematics at UC Berkeley in 2013.
This summer I will intern at Google continuing my research on security in machine learning. Previously I interned at Intel evaluating Control-Flow Enforcement Technology (CET). Twice I interned at Matasano Security doing security testing and designing an embedded security CTF.
IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, 2017.
Awarded Best Student Paper
Nicholas Carlini and David Wagner
Neural networks provide state-of-the-art results for most machine learning tasks. Unfortunately, neural networks are vulnerable to adversarial examples: given an input x and any target classification t, it is possible to find a new input x' that is similar to x but classified as t. This makes it difficult to apply neural networks in security-critical areas. Defensive distillation is a recently proposed approach that can take an arbitrary neural network, and increase its robustness, reducing the success rate of current attacks’ ability to find adversarial examples from 95% to 0.5%.
In this paper, we demonstrate that defensive distillation does not significantly increase the robustness of neural networks by introducing three new attack algorithms that are successful on both distilled and undistilled neural networks with 100% probability. Our attacks are tailored to three distance metrics used previously in the literature, and when compared to previous adversarial example generation algorithms, our attacks are often much more effective (and never worse). Furthermore, we propose using high-confidence adversarial examples in a simple transferability test we show can also be used to break defensive distillation. We hope our attacks will be used as a benchmark in future defense attempts to create neural networks that resist adversarial examples.
Usenix Security, 2016.
Awarded 2016 CSAW Best Applied Research Paper
Nicholas Carlini*, Pratyush Mishra, Tavish Vaidya, Yuankai Zhang, Micah Sherr, Clay Shields, David Wagner, and Wenchao Zhou
Voice interfaces are becoming more ubiquitous and are now the primary input method for many devices. We explore in this paper how they can be attacked with hidden voice commands that are unintelligible to human listeners but which are interpreted as commands by devices.
We evaluate these attacks under two different threat models. In the black-box model, an attacker uses the speech recognition system as an opaque oracle. We show that the adversary can produce difficult to understand commands that are effective against existing systems in the black-box model. Under the white-box model, the attacker has full knowledge of the internals of the speech recognition system and uses it to create attack commands that we demonstrate through user testing are not understandable by humans.
We then evaluate several defenses, including notifying the user when a voice command is accepted; a verbal challenge-response protocol; and a machine learning approach that can detect our attacks with 99.8% accuracy.
Usenix Security, 2015.
Nicholas Carlini, Antonio Barresi, Mathias Payer, Thomas R. Gross and David Wagner
Control-Flow Integrity (CFI) is a defense which prevents control-flow hijacking attacks. While recent research has shown that coarse-grained CFI does not stop attacks, fine-grained CFI is believed to be secure.
We argue that assessing the effectiveness of practical CFI implementations is non-trivial and that common evaluation metrics fail to do so. We then evaluate fully-precise static CFI -- the most restrictive CFI policy that does not break functionality -- and reveal limitations in its security. Using a generalization of non-control-data attacks which we call Control-Flow Bending (CFB), we show how an attacker can leverage a memory corruption vulnerability to achieve Turing-complete computation on memory using just calls to the standard library. We use this attack technique to evaluate fully-precise static CFI on six real binaries and show that in five out of six cases, powerful attacks are still possible. Our results suggest that CFI may not be a reliable defense against memory corruption vulnerabilities.
We further evaluate shadow stacks in combination with CFI and find that their presence for security is necessary: deploying shadow stacks removes arbitrary code execution capabilities of attackers in three of six cases.
Usenix Security, 2014.
Nicholas Carlini and David Wagner.
USENIX Journal of Election Technology and Systems (JETS), Volume 1 Issue 1. Presented at EVT/WOTE 2013.
Eric Kim, Nicholas Carlini, Andrew Chang, George Yiu, Kai Wang, and David Wagner.
Kai Wang, Eric Kim, Nicholas Carlini, Ivan Motyashov, Daniel Nguyen, and David Wagner.
Usenix Security, 2012.
Nicholas Carlini, Adrienne Porter Felt, and David Wagner.
arXiv short paper, 2016.
Nicholas Carlini and David Wagner
We show that defensive distillation is not secure: it is no more resistant to targeted misclassification attacks than unprotected neural networks.