Ranjan Pal

Research Scientist  

Viterbi School of Engineering

University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA

Email: rpal[at]usc[dot]edu

Office: Henry Salvatori Building (SAL) 200



At Manhattan Beach near Los Angeles, 2015


Research Interests

My research interests lie in the design, modeling, and analysis of efficient cyber-security, privacy, and communication network systems. I generally use tools from economics, game theory, algorithms, applied probability, and mathematical optimization to realize my interests. While most of the current security, networking, and distributed systems communities only focus on technically improving system performance, I belong to the small community that thrives to improve systems performance via a multi-dimensional approach jointly involving the economics, technology, and policy of systems.


Academic Materials

Full Resume

List of Selected Publications (See below to download softcopies)

Research Statement

Teaching Statement

My Place in the Family of Mathematicians

Wikipedia Cites a Publication from my PhD Research


About Myself

I am a Research Scientist in the Viterbi School of Engineering at USC. I am associated with the school's Computer Science and Electrical Engineering departments. I co-supervise the Quantitative Evaluation and Design (QED) research group in the department of Computer Science with Professor Leana Golubchik, and collaborate with the P-Group, led by Professor Viktor Prasanna, in the department of Electrical Engineering. In principle, I am a weird mix of (i) a computer scientist, (ii) applied economist and mathematician, and (iii) an engineer :). I graduated with a Ph.D from the Department of Computer Science at USC in December 2014. My thesis advisors were Professors Leana Golubchik and Konstantinos Psounis. For my PhD, I also collaborated with Professor Pan Hui of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. My major research interest lies in the area of cyber-security, privacy, and communication networks - especially performance modeling aspects of these using economics, game theory, algorithms, applied probability, and mathematical optimization, with the end goal of making cyber-security and privacy as robust as possible, and improving/optimizing network performance. I also have a minor research interest in applied machine learning. During my PhD, I was a recipient of the prestigious Provost Fellowship at USC. As a PhD student at USC, I have held visiting research positions at Princeton University and Deutsch Telekom Research Laboratories, Germany. In the past, as an undergraduate and as a masters student, I have held research positions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, National University of Singapore, University of California, Indian Institute of Technology, Indian Institute of Management, and Aalborg University, Denmark. My Erdos number is 4. In my spare time (not that much nowadays :)) I do international travel, listen to music, watch movies, swim, and play/watch cricket and soccer. I also have a deep interest in Indian philosophy.

View Ranjan Pal's profile on LinkedIn


My Research - Problem Types, Goal, and Tools

I am an applied theorist currently interested in (i) interdisciplinary security and privacy in networked and distributed systems (e.g., mobile Internet, social networks, IoT and cyber-physical systems), and (ii) resource management in distributed systems - specifically, data centers and ad-driven video streaming systems. My primary research goal is two fold: (a) revealing fundamental insights into the efficient and/or secure design of communication systems by holistically integrating the economics, technical, game theoretic, optimization, learning, and psychological aspects of a research problem, and (b) realizing in practice, the efficient design of communication systems, using computationally efficient tools and tools from both, theoretical as well as experimental economics. More specifically, I do inter-disciplinary research (both fundamental and applied) that lies at the boundary of information security, applied and experimental economics, game theory, algorithms, stochastic processes, network science and graph theory, systems optimization, and applied machine learning. An example of such research is my Ph.D problem, where I investigated the important role of cyber-insurance markets in achieving a robust level of cyber-security, which is currently not present in the Internet due to several techno-social-economic constraints. In this regard, I hypothesized the use cyber-insurance as being an efficient tool that can alleviate these constraints and jointly satisfy the major parties affecting the level of cyber-security today, consequently leading to improved cyber-security. To prove my hypothesis, I had to solve hard problems that required the use of interdisciplinary tools from economics, game theory, network science, applied probability, and mathematical optimization. It was extremely challenging but great fun at the same time. My PhD research impact was reported by (i) USC Graduate School and (ii) USC News . Wikipedia cites one paper from my PhD thesis . I was also interviewed by MIT Technology Review on my PhD work. [My PhD Thesis, My PhD Defense Talk]


My Current Projects

I lead the following research projects at USC.

  1. The Design and Analysis of Privacy-Friendly and Efficient Mobile Application Markets (abstract)
  2. The Design and Analysis of Privacy-Friendly Ecosystems for Sustaining Personal Data Services in the IoT World (abstract)
  3. The Design and Analysis of Dynamic Markets for Small Data Centers to Improve On-Demand Resource Provisioning (abstract)
  4. The Design and Analysis of Ad-Driven Efficient Markets to Improve QoS in Video Streaming Systems (abstract)

To USC Students: Please email me if you are interested in working on any of these projects.


Selected Publications

I have been the main author in all of the papers, except two.

  1. Improving Network Security via Cyber-Insurance: A Market Analysis, Submitted to ACM Transactions on Performance Evaluation of Computer Systems (based on our IEEE INFOCOM'14 paper)
  2. Will Cyber-Insurance Improve Network Security?: A Market Analysis, accepted in IEEE INFOCOM 2014, Toronto, Canada (Acceptance Rate = 19%)
  3. Realizing Efficient Cyber-Insurance Markets: Via Price Discriminating Security Products, Submitted to IEEE Transactions on Secure and Dependable Computing (based on our IFIP Networking'13 paper)
  4. On a Way to Improve Cyber-Insurer Profits: When A Security Vendor Becomes the Cyber-Insurer, accepted in IFIP Networking 2013, New York, USA (Acceptance Rate = 26%)
  5. On Differentiating Cyber-Insurance Contracts: A Topological Perspective, accepted in IEEE/IFIP Internet Management Conference 2013, Ghent, Belgium (Acceptance Rate = 23%)
  6. Cyber-Insurance for Cyber-Security: A Topological Take on Modulating Insurance Premiums, accepted in ACM SIGMETRICS Workshop (MAMA 2012), London, UK. A slightly modified version of this paper will appear in ACM SIGMETRICS Performance Evaluation Review, 2012, Vol. 40(3)
  7. Cyber-Insurance for Cyber-Security: A Solution to the Information Asymmetry Problem, accepted in SIAM Annual Meeting 2012, Minnesota, USA
  8. Aegis: A Novel Cyber-Insurance Model, accepted in GameSec, 2011, Maryland, USA. (Acceptance Rate = 29%)
  9. Modeling Investments in Internet Security: Tackling Topological Information Uncertainty, accepted in GameSec, 2011, Maryland, USA. (Acceptance Rate = 29%)
  10. On Economic Perspectives of Internet Security: The Problem of Designing Optimal Cyber-Insurance Contracts, accepted in ACM SIGMETRICS Workshop (MAMA 2010), New York, USA. A slightly modified version of this paper appeared in ACM SIGMETRICS, Performance Evaluation Review, 2010. Vol. 38(2)
  11. Analyzing Self-Defense Investments in Internet Security Under Cyber-Insurance Coverage, accepted in IEEE ICDCS, 2010, Genoa, Italy. (Acceptance Rate = 14.3%)
  12. On Online Time Series Clustering For Demand Response: OPTIC - A Theory to Break the "Curse of Dimensionality", accepted in ACM E-Energy, 2015, Bangalore, India. (Acceptance Rate = 20%)
  13. Sustaining Ad-Driven P2P Streaming Ecosystems: A Market-Based Approach, accepted in IEEE/ACM IWQoS, 2015, Portland, USA, with ACM FCRC 2015. (Acceptance Rate = 22%)
  14. MATCH for the Prosumer Smart Grid: The Algorithmics of Real-Time Power Balance. Conditionally accepted to IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems
  15. Improving CPS Security Through STREAM: The Case of the Smart Grid. Conditionally accepted to IEEE Transactions on Computer Aided Design
  16. A Secure Computation Framework for SDNs, accepted to appear in ACM SIGCOMM Workshop (HotSDN), 2014, Chicago, USA
  17. A Real-Time Pricing Model for Electricity Consumption, accepted in SIAM Conference on Financial Mathematics and Engineering, 2012, Minnesota, USA
  18. On Social Community Networks: The Cost Sharing Problem, accepted in ACM SIMPLEX 2012 Workshop, in conjunction with WWW conference, Lyon, France
  19. Economic Models for Cloud Service Markets: Pricing and Capacity Planning, published in Elsevier Theoretical Computer Science, 2013, Vol. 496. (Amongst the Top 5 downloaded TCS journal papers from 2010-2014)
  20. Economic Models for Cloud Service Markets, accepted in ICDCN 2012, Hong Kong. (Also invited by INFORMS Annual Meeting 2011, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA). (Acceptance Rate = 28%)
  21. Settling For Less : A QoS Compromise Mechanism for Mobile Opportunistic Networks, accepted in ACM SIGMETRICS Workshop (MAMA 2011), San Jose, USA. A slightly modified version of this paper appeared in ACM SIGMETRICS, Performance Evaluation Review, 2011, Vol. 39(3)
  22. Sharing-Mart: Online Auctions for Digital Content Trading and Content Incentivization, accepted in GameNets, 2011, Shanghai, China. (A flagship conference on game theory applications in communication networks)
  23. On Wireless Social Community Network Routers: The Design and Cost Sharing Problem for Better Deployment , accepted in IEEE GLOBECOM 2010, Florida, USA. (Acceptance Rate = 32%)
  24. Sharing Costs in Social Community Networks, accepted in IEEE ICNC Workshop on Computing Networking and Communications, 2012, Maui, Hawaii, USA.
  25. Playing Games with Human Health: A Game-Theoretic Approach to Optimizing Reliability in Wireless Health Networks, accepted in IEEE ISABEL 2010, Rome, Italy.


Student Advising

I advise the following graduate students at USC.

Harsh Bhuwania (MS student in EE) (also co-advised by Prof. Leana Golubchik)

Shashwat Shankar (MS student in EE) (also co-advised by Prof. Leana Golubchik)

Sung-Han Lin (PhD student in CS) (mentor, alongside his advisor Prof. Leana Golubchik)


Selected Graduate Coursework

While a graduate student, I had taken the following graduate level courses.

(1) Design and Analysis of Algorithms (MIT), (2) Mathematical Analysis (USC), (3) Probability Theory and Stochastic Processes (USC), (4) Mathematical Optimization (USC), (5) Performance Analysis of Systems (USC), (6) Network Economics and Network Game Theory (USC), (7) Computational Geometry (UC Davis), (8) Artificial Intelligence (MIT) (9) Statistical Machine Learning and Graphical Models (USC), (10) Computer Networks and Distributed Systems (USC and UC Davis), (11) Engineering Management (UC Davis), (12) Computer Security (USC), (13) Cloud computing (USC), (14) Software-Defined Networking (USC), and (15) Database Systems (USC)


Teaching Activities

I was a Teaching Assistant in the following courses during my graduate studies.

1. (Graduate) Analysis of Algorithms: (Fa '13, 'Sp'13, Fa'12, Sp'12, Fa'11, Fa'10), USC [Exceptional TA citation from the USC Computer Science Department, 2012-2013]

2. Research Seminar: Sp'14, USC

3. Fundamentals of Database Systems (Undergraduate Level): Sp'14, USC

4. Unix and C Programming (Undergraduate Level): Sp'06, UC Davis



I love to travel. Life is boring without it!!!. I consider myself immensely lucky to have travelled to various parts of the world for both, academic as well as for holidaying purposes, at a young age. I generally make short yearly trips with friends, and really enjoy and relish the culture, food, nature, and monumental architecture in all the countries I visit. Listed below are the countries I have visited (airports not included :) ).

Asia: Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia

North America: USA, Canada

Europe: Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, France, Russia, Switzerland, Italy, Vatican City, Holland, Belgium, Denmark, England, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Spain, and Portugal


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