Campus News in Brief

Researchers develop password de-coder

Ashwini Rao, a software engineering Ph.D. student, and a team of other Carnegie Mellon researchers developed a password-cracking algorithm that accounts for grammar in order to prove the concept that certain passwords are more vulnerable than others.

They tested the algorithm against 1,434 passwords containing 16 or more characters.

Their results proved that grammar, whether good or bad, made passwords more vulnerable, and that a longer password is not always a safer password.

According to a university press release, “A password composed of ‘pronoun-verb-adjective-noun,’ such as ‘Shehave3cats,’ is inherently easier to decode than ‘Andyhave3cats,’ which follows ‘noun-verb-adjective-noun.’ A password that incorporated more nouns would be even more secure.”

Rao said in a press release, “I’ve seen password policies that say, ‘Use five words.’ Well, if four of those words are pronouns, they don’t add much security.”

Alum wins Oscar in technical category

Drew Olbrich (SCS ’92) will receive an Academy Award on Feb. 9 at the Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation for his work in creating the Light system, a system that was used for computer graphics lighting in movies such as Shrek, Madagascar, and other animated DreamWorks films.

The Scientific and Technical Awards honor those with achievements that have significantly contributed to the technical aspects of film.

According to a university press release, the Academy Awards released a statement that said, “Virtually unchanged from its original incarnation over 15 years ago, Light is still in continuous use due to its emphasis on interactive responsiveness, final-quality interactive render preview, scalable architecture, and powerful user-configurable spreadsheet interface.”

Former professor of computer science and robotics Doug James will also receive an award.

James will be honored — along with Theodore Kim, Nils Thuerey, and Markus Gross — for the invention of new fluid simulation software.

New major at Silicon Valley campus

Carnegie Mellon University’s Silicon Valley campus will now offer a new concentration — connected embedded systems — for its Master of Science in Software Engineering degree program. By offering hands-on experience in software engineering, the program appeals to those interested in working as developers, architects, and other technical professionals.

Students within the new connected embedded systems major will be presented with research projects and opportunities, as they work with leading companies within the Silicon Valley.

Courses within this major include Metrics for Software Engineers, Craft of Software Development, Avoiding Software Project Failures, Managing Software Professionals, Mobile Hardware for Software Engineers, and Connected Embedded Systems Architecture.