Grad stories: Atif Mohammad
UND graduate student Atif Mohammad shares his background and experience.
Where you are from?
I was born and raised in Pakistan where I did my undergraduate degree and my first Masters degree in Computer Sciences at the University of Karachi. That was focused on software engineering. I then moved to Canada in 2001 to explore what the world has to offer, and after a number of years I realized I had become legacy ― everything was changed in the computer world.
In 2006, I decided to go back to school and I did a Masters degree focused on Database Management Systems. That was at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. I also had a chance to do a full semester load course at MIT at Cambridge, Mass. in Systems Architecture Design, to be a certified Systems Architect from MIT, by itself is a great deal for me as well.
Can you describe the research you undertook for that degree?
I was working with Pervasive computing which is embedded in our daily environment: everything from our phones, computers, to even our cars and stoves, which we can program. I created a personal information environment for an individual who is dealing with multiple devices. This was before the idea of Dropbox was even conceived by a student at MIT. I designed in 2007 an environment where an individual could access their information by logging into one of the services I designed, over the Internet.
So a single sign-on for all my devices?
Yes, whether it is your phone, your iPad, desktop, laptop etc. Google, iCloud, Dropbox can all do this and there are other variations ― my version was much more controlled. Due to privacy and security, some environments cannot allow you to access others ― for example, a school or library computer with my work computer. It meant that on my personal computer, I was able to have all the data syncing back. My office work was agnostic with my school work and vice versa.
How does this differ from the other cloud environments where I can access any of the information I put there from anywhere?
The difference is that my environment belongs only to me and is done purely in my own domain. Whatever you put in the cloud, whether it be Dropbox, Google Drive or something similar, it is no longer owned by you, the user, and it can even be used against you as we see in some current lawsuits.
Is this what you are working on for your Ph.D.?
This is one part, and I have converted that to a larger version I have called DOMBA (Distributed Objects Management Based Articulation). It's an enhancement of my personal information environment work; however it has now gone beyond the individual. It now a NOSQL word ― a Not Only Structure Query Language.
I've been invited to talk on this at several places, including Washington State University at Tacoma, Colorado State University, and Washington Industrial Technology Forum in Seattle. However, since I'm also working toward my own patent, I had to be careful about how much I could discuss. That's where the secure session (NOSQL) takes place, which is platform agnostic. ETL (Extraction Transport Load) is already built in and the size of the file, which is the DOMBA operating system, is only 16MB.
Cloud secured gateway ― when you are working in a cloud, how can you be sure that it is secure enough to bind with your device and no one else can access it.
So, it has a bit of threat intelligence involved so that someone can't be sneaking in another door.
I have created a three level security protocol. Initially you are given a handwritten password; a human is involved in that step. It's not given to you on a machine. You sign in with that password which is coded back. Because this has never been extracted and sent over the internet, it is not vulnerable. This will create the third key, which is tied to your device's physical address, and this device is provided to you for your official use.
When you are developing this, how are you seeing it applied? Is this for Government offices, educational institutions?
It is not necessarily for everyday use but rather for any restricted domain. For example, if you wanted me to edit a document using your device rather than uploading it to the cloud, you would give me permission to use it within a UND domain, but if I tried to edit it from outside that domain, whatever the domain is that's approved, I'd be blocked.
So it is for anyone, any organization or any industry that wants to use it because it is self-administered in-house. It is purchased and therefore owned rather than sharing it with a third party.
As I mentioned earlier, I went for certification of Systems Architecture at MIT in 2007, and while I was there, I created my own methodology, which I named SOA3.0 (Service Oriented Architecture) and that's a combination of UML, RUP, object process methodology. I brought all the good aspects to one methodology, and this is what I have used.
The Scientific Computing Ph.D. program is designed to be collaborative across disciplines or other departments. How are you using your research to collaborate?
Yes, Information Management Systems in the department of Information Systems and Business Education. They are my second department on my doctoral committee, and that's why it is Distributed Objects Management Based Articulation. So, the scientific aspect is working with computer science and algorithms and software engineering, and the collaborative side is finding ways to make it accessible so anyone can use it.
Why did you choose UND?
Dr. Emanuel Grant suggested I join UND. I started my Ph.D. at Florida Tech, but I could never go there because of my job and my Masters' degree was lingering on. I met Dr Emanuel Grant at a conference in 2007 where we were co-chairing a panel in a conference. We started collaborating on research and papers, and he invited me to apply to UND since they were starting a new Ph.D. program. It's been a fantastic experience. We have good faculty.
Where do you want to be in 5 years?
I'd like to be either running my own technology business or at level 5 in the executive leadership ― most likely somewhere on the West Coast as CTO or Vice President Technology. I definitely want to be in the industry, but I might also like to teach a class at a nearby university.
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