Computational Game Theory for Security: Key Algorithmic Principles, Deployed Applications, and Research Challenges

Presented By:
Milind Tambe, Professor, Computer Science & Industrial Systems Engineering Departments, University of Southern California
Date and Location:
Friday, September 5, 2014 - 1:00pm
NCSA Auditorium | Webcast
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Security is a critical concern around the world, whether it is the challenge of protecting ports, airports and other critical infrastructure, interdicting the illegal flow of drugs, weapons and money, protecting endangered species, forests and fisheries, suppressing crime in urban areas or security in cyberspace. Unfortunately, limited security resources prevent full security coverage at all times. Instead, these limited security resources must be allocated and scheduled efficiently, simultaneously taking into account an adversary's response to the security coverage (e.g., an adversary can exploit predictability in security allocation), the adversary's preferences and the potential uncertainty over such preferences and capabilities.

To help in efficient and randomized security resource allocation, for the past few years we have used computational game theory to build decision-aids for security agencies around the world. These decision aids have been deployed for security of ports and ferry traffic with the US coast guard (in the ports of New York, Boston, Los Angeles/Long Beach and now being deployed at many other ports), deployed for security of airports and air traffic with the Federal Air Marshals (FAMS) and the Los Angeles World Airport (LAX) police, evaluated for security of metro trains with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department (LASD) and the TSA, and undergoing testing for protection of fisheries with the US Coast Guard and protection of wildlife in Uganda and for other applications. These applications are leading to real-world use-inspired research in the area of “security games”: from new algorithms for scaling up security games, to handling significant adversarial uncertainty, to dealing with bounded rationality of human adversaries and other interdisciplinary challenges.

I will provide an overview of my research's group's work in this area. This is joint work with a number of former and current PHD students, postdocs, and other collaborators, all listed at:


Milind Tambe, USCMilind Tambe is Helen N. and Emmett H. Jones Professor in Engineering at the University of Southern California (USC). He is a fellow of AAAI (Association for Advancement of Artificial Intelligence) and ACM (Association for Computing Machinery), as well as recipient of the ACM/SIGART Autonomous Agents Research Award, Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation Homeland security award, the INFORMS Wagner prize for excellence in Operations Research practice, the Rist Prize of the Military Operations Research Society, IBM Faculty Award, Okawa foundation faculty research award, RoboCup scientific challenge award, USC Associates award for creativity in research and USC Viterbi School of Engineering use-inspired research award. Prof. Tambe has contributed several foundational papers in agents and multiagent systems; this includes areas of multiagent teamwork, distributed constraint optimization (DCOP) and security games. For this research, he has received the "influential paper award" from the International Foundation for Agents and Multiagent Systems (IFAAMAS), as well as with his research group, best paper awards at a number of premier Artificial Intelligence Conferences and workshops; these have included multiple best paper awards at the International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems and International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents. In addition, the ''security games'' framework and algorithms pioneered by Prof. Tambe and his research group are now deployed for real-world use by several agencies including the US Coast Guard, the US Federal Air Marshals service, the Transportation Security Administration, LAX Police and the LA Sheriff's Department for security scheduling at a variety of US ports, airports and transportation infrastructure. This research has led to him and his students receiving the US Coast Guard Meritorious Team Commendation from the Commandant, US Coast Guard First District's Operational Excellence Award, Certificate of Appreciation from the US Federal Air Marshals Service and special commendation given by the Los Angeles World Airports police from the city of Los Angeles. For his teaching and service, Prof. Tambe has received the USC Steven B. Sample Teaching and Mentoring award and the ACM recognition of service award. Recently, he co-founded ARMORWAY, a company focused on risk mitigation and security resource optimization, where he serves on the board of directors. Prof. Tambe received his Ph.D. from the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University.

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About the TCIPG Seminar Series:

The seminar series is presented by the Trustworthy Cyber Infrastructure for the Power Grid (TCIPG) Project, an $18 million multi-university research effort whose partner institutions include the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Arizona State University, Dartmouth, and Washington State University. The TCIPG Project, a successor to the earlier NSF-funded TCIP Center, was founded in 2009 with support from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It is housed in the Information Trust Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.