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Keystrokes of Genius

News Story

Pace doctoral candidate Vinnie Monaco ’12, ’14, ’16 is verifying computer users through behavioral biometrics research.

Since arriving at Pace in 2008, John Vincent “Vinnie” Monaco ’12, ’14, ’16 has become a familiar face at the University and in the surrounding community. His accomplishments and research have been featured in Pace Magazine; the local newspaper The Journal News; and even on the cover of Westchester Magazine. The PhD in Computer Science student is making news again as he heads to the 2014 International Joint Conference on Biometrics (IJCB) in Clearwater, Florida, this September.

Monaco, who earned both his BS in Computer Science and Mathematics and his MS in Computer Science from Pace, recently had his research paper “Classification and Authentication of One-dimensional Behavior Biometrics” accepted to the conference, which combines two major annual biometrics conferences—the Biometrics Theory, Applications, and Systems conference and the International Conference on Biometrics.

His paper describes an algorithm that can identify or authenticate a person based on timestamps of an event occurring, like a specific keystroke, for example. “One of the primary applications that we’ve been targeting is online test-takers,” he says. That could be useful in helping instructors verify the identities of their students and counter plagiarism and cheating.

Of the 261 papers submitted to the 2014 IJCB, only 80 were accepted for publication in the conference journal. While this will be his first time attending the conference, it is his third time being published by it.

In conjunction with the 2014 IJCB, the organization hosted five biometrics competitions leading up to the conference, one of which Monaco took first place in last spring. The Second Eye Movement Verification and Identification Competition challenged Monaco and other contestants to create a classification model that could identify people based off their eye movements. Given a dataset of partially unlabeled data, Monaco was able to write an algorithm that classified more of the unlabeled data than his competitors. His first-place prize? An eye tracker. “It’s a special kind of camera that’s designed to track eye movements looking at a computer screen. Right now I’m using the eye tracker to test an application and look at more data. I’ll bring it to the conference,” he says.

After six years of studying at Pace, Monaco says his interest in behavioral biometrics has been strongly supported by Pace faculty like Computer Science Professor Charles Tappert, PhD, who’s been working with pattern recognition for nearly 30 years. Tappert has collaborated with Monaco on a variety of research papers and conferences and even served as his master’s thesis adviser, which he says is an option for only the best MS in Computer Sciences students. “He’s the best student that we’ve had in Seidenberg School, certainly as long as I’ve been here,” says Tappert.

And the respect goes both ways. “What keeps me here is definitely the faculty. Early on, I developed a good working relationship with the faculty at Pace and, on top of that, got a good scholarship,” says Monaco.

In 2011, Monaco was selected for the highly competitive and prestigious Information Assurance Scholarship Program by the U.S. Department of Defense. The scholarship covers full tuition, fees, books, and includes a stipend, as well as full-time employment with the DoD after graduation. Monaco can’t elaborate on his DoD plans post-graduation, but he hopes to work with behavioral biometrics in the future. “I can say that I would like to pursue work in the field on my own. I’m in the process of putting my own business together,” he says. In fact, his budding business involves the very research he will publish at the 2014 IJCB to help verify the identities of online test-takers.

But with two more years left in his journey at Pace, Monaco is sure to be making news on campus in the near future. “There’s still so much to learn and so much that could be discovered in this field,” he says. “Computer science definitely has a lot of room for growth.”

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