In the competition this year you will analyze a dataset consisting of internet routing "prefix announcements". You can aim to identify faults or possible malicious behavior present in the prefix announcements. Or, you can devise another goal, such as characterizing the prefix announcements graphically or via a statistical model.
To obtain access to the data, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Although the data have been anonymized, routing table data and other internet traffic data are in general somewhat sensitive. Therefore, you must not distribute these data files or use them for any purpose other than this competition.
The data were provided for our use by researchers at MERIT, a major network operator and research organization based in Ann Arbor.
Note: We may provide more background information, sample code, or hints here as the competition progresses.
You will need a very basic understanding of how internet routing works to understand the data. The main concept to understand is that the internet is divided into subnetworks, and traffic among the networks is handled by routers. The major internet routers (each of which handles huge volumes of traffic directed to many thousands of users), communicate with each other to facilitate the routing of packets of data over the network. When a router is able to handle data that is headed to a given subnetwork, it sends out a "prefix announcement" to inform the other routers. This is a dynamic process, at any point in time a router can announce that it will accept traffic bound for any given subnetwork.
The data for the competition is two text files containing a two-hour snapshot of "routing tables". These tables capture a subset of the prefix announcements sent by the the main internet routers. It only contains prefix announcements received by the MERIT network router, which is the router handling traffic to U-M. Each row in the data files consists of seven fields separated by pipes. We are only interested in the data in fields 6 and 7. Field 6 identifies a specific subnetwork. Field 7 is a sequence of router identifiers. For example, if field 7 contains the numbers
11164 4637 17444 55649
this means that router 55649 is announcing that it can now handle traffic directed to the subnet given in field 6 of the same row (e.g. subnet 18.104.22.168/19). After this prefix announcement is made by router 55649, it is then picked up by routers 17444, 4637, 11164, and 237 in sequence. Router 237 is the MERIT router and is not listed in field 7 of the data file, although it is always at the end of the chain of messages.
You are welcome to analyze this data in any way you see fit. However the main motivation for choosing this particular segment of data is that a routing error occurred at one point within this window of time. One router incorrectly sent a prefix announcement indicating that it could receive traffic from a network that it is not supposed to handle. You can try to detect this anomalous event, or identify a subset of the data that is likely to hold the anomalous event. We may give more hints later, but for now this is all we are revealing about the anomaly.
You may also focus your project on other goals, such as describing the characteristics of prefix calls and the paths that they follow through the main internet routers.
All reports must be submitted by email to Gina Cornacchia (email@example.com) by 9AM on Monday, April 11th.
The most important judging criterion is to identify an interesting finding in the data, and to support and interpret it in an engaging and accessible way. You do not have to find the anomaly to have a valid entry.
Each participant or team must submit one written report in PDF format.
There is no mandated page length, content or structure for the report. A strong report will be focused, coherent, and interesting to read, and should be readable by someone who is not an expert data scientist or statistician.
Use of advanced or specialized techniques will not necessarily be viewed as a strength. If you choose to use advanced techniques be sure to motivate and explain each technique in an accessible manner.
Use of visualization (e.g. graphs and diagrams) is encouraged. Visual materials should be incorporated into the report if possible. A separate file containing visual materials will also be accepted.
Questions about the contest should be directed to Gina Cornacchia or Kerby Shedden.
The reports will be judged by a panel of experts. Prizes will be awarded as follows:
First place $500
Second place $300
Third place $200
When a team is awarded a prize, the prize amount will be divided equally among the team members.
You can view the page for last year's competition.