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Real-life tweet provides real-life research opportunity

January 17, 2023

Grammar is important, even in social media.

In a 2018 tweet, Rudy Guiliani left out a space after a period. The resulting word (G-20.In) was a real domain name, so Twitter automatically created a hyperlink. This “fake domain” name was then purchased by an individual who created his own message. This is called “sniping.”

When DSU Computer Science student Amir Kemal heard about these instances, he thought it was interesting, and applied for a research grant to study this. This fall, he was awarded a Student Mentored Research Initiative (SRI) grant.

Kemal explained that Twitter is not good at filtering these hyperlinks, so “fake domains are a problem because people will click on the links, which will take the user somewhere they don’t want to go,” where they could download patches or viruses.

The Guiliani example “perfectly illustrates what Amir's research plans to investigate,” said Andrew Kramer, Assistant Professor in The Beacom College of Computer & Cyber Sciences. “The person who registered this domain used it as a harmless prank, but I'm sure you can imagine many more serious ways it could have been abused,” he stated. Kramer is Kemal’s faculty mentor for the project.

Recent events with Twitter’s ownership do not affect the project, but makes the project more interesting, Kemal said. This project will be a way to potentially make the social media platform safer, which is what computer scientists want to do, he stated. He is a computer science major from Ethiopia who graduated in December 2022.

“No matter what he finds with this research project, it will be valid and be impactful,” Kramer said. That solution he finds will need to be shared with others, so Kemal will present his findings at the University’s Research Symposium in March.

Research has been a new and exciting process for Kemal. “I thought research was supposed to be very hard, but it’s not like that. A research project is as simple as solving a problem,” he said.

Through this process, Kramer said students learn “essential skills that give them the opportunity to test what they know on a real-world problem, and then pick up new skills they might not otherwise get a chance to learn in the classroom.”

Beyond the technical skills such as learning a new programming language or a new database, Kramer added, “the project holistically is valuable on a resume because it shows they have worked through a problem, found a solution or investigated causes, and did something of great importance in the industry.”

“This experience will help me be well prepared for a job,” said Kemal.

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