Anastasia Shuba, a UCI Ph.D. student in electrical engineering & computer science, presents her award-winning paper on blocking ads in mobile apps at the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium in Spain. Zubair Shafiq / University of Iowa

UCI’s Anastasia Shuba won the Andreas Pfitzmann Best Student Paper Award at the 2018 Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium, held in Barcelona, Spain, in July. Her manuscript, “NoMoAds: Effective & Efficient Cross-App Mobile Ad-Blocking,” was selected based on “scientific quality and expected impact on the field.” The paper describes a technology to prevent pop-up advertisements from appearing in mobile device applications. “Although ads are seen as a popular strategy for monetizing apps, it’s often desirable to block them to improve usability, performance, privacy and security,” said Shuba, a Ph.D. student in electrical engineering & computer science. “Our solution can intercept, inspect and block transmissions from all apps on a mobile device.” The software then extracts features from packets and headers and trains machine learning classifiers to detect and eliminate ad requests. “To the best of our knowledge, NoMoAds is the first mobile ad blocker to effectively and efficiently block ads served across all apps using a machine learning approach,” Shuba said. Her adviser and co-author on the paper, Athina Markopoulou, associate professor of electrical engineering & computer science, added: “Privacy is a difficult problem, and advertising is an important piece of the puzzle. I am pleased to see Anastasia’s work on mobile ad blocking being recognized in one of the top venues in this field.”