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My supervisor pitched this idea of working on this "sms abuse" paper, he claims it will be a "breakthrough" and no one has publish something like this before.

He wants me to collect data from these temporary sms websites, and find a link how attackers might use this sensitive data shared on these websites to hack into people's accounts, bank, emails, you get the idea.

It all sounds nice and easy, but I've asked him how can he be so sure that the credentials posted on these sites can be used to break to other people's accounts. Because usually you'll see some OTP or some one-time code to get back your account, like:

4564 is your Google OTP. Please don't share it with anyone.

I think it's just his hypothesis that people get hacked this way, since there's no data or facts that this has been done (at least that I know of). He's very reluctant to help me or point me in the right direction, he just pushes his agenda and dodges my questions.

I'm very pragmatic and also a bit cynical and I question every single thing, it baffles me how he's a postdoc and takes matters lightly like it's child's play. He's also well-versed in the cybersecurity domain and I'm not, so maybe that gives him the confidence to act like this. But also he's very hasty to publish the paper to multiple conferences, it seems like he wants to reach his quota and doesn't care on the quality of work.

Sorry for ranting but the bottom line is: how can I educate myself on this "unknown domain (for me)" and finish my thesis?

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  • Are you his first student? What was the future of his previous students' research?
    – m123
    Mar 17 at 20:05
  • He's had other students and they graduated, but he sees students thesis as business. In the sense that he's suggested to me and other peers to publish these papers in security conferences straight away. I believe he earns smth substantial each time the papers get submitted in conferences. In the end of the day, I have to do most of the work, but I would like some sense of direction at least in the beginning, since it's my first time writing a thesis paper. Mar 25 at 14:21

1 Answer 1

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Probably the most relevant question for you right now is, "What happens if this idea doesn't pan out like you [the supervisor] think?"

The correct answer is, "Then your thesis becomes a detailed and rigorous [to a degree appropriate for an MSCS] explanation of why this didn't work."

If you get that answer from whoever approves your thesis and sets your grade then that's a reasonable course of action. Whether or not you can resist or change directions depends on your personal circumstances in your specific institution.

(The anecdotes are too long to be useful; suffice to say I've been on both sides of this experience, both times with good faith on all sides. It didn't feel great, but both cases worked out with successful theses.)

The second most relevant issue is the lack of guidance or support; that was not a factor in my experiences. Overconfidence, yes; lack of support, no. You're going to have to find a middle ground between getting nothing and getting spoon-fed in advance. It might help to dig in and do a little research and a little work before just dismissing the idea or demanding a justification.

Have you done a literature search to see if this idea has been tried?

Have you started even a small scale implementation?

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    "Then your thesis becomes a detailed and rigorous [to a degree appropriate for an MSCS] explanation of why this didn't work.". Although thats totatly right, it seems that at least he needs to find out the answer to this question. The answer cannot simply be because I couldn't find the solution since the topic was complicated. This is not an impossible outcome if the research topic of MS thesis is selected without any small precomputations.
    – m123
    Mar 17 at 20:30
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    @m123 I strongly agree. But that is what I was trying to say by "detailed and rigorous". I'm trying to NOT give the student a "get out of work free" card, and also NOT give the supervisor a "get out of supervising free" card.
    – Anonymous
    Mar 17 at 22:09

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