The #GrouponU Blog is back for 2016! We’ll regularly feature a Groupon intern or recent college grad telling you about their experience tackling challenging problems and working with our teams.
Who are you?
Hi! My name is Sasank Channapragada and I’m a second year Master’s student at the University of California San Diego. I am studying Computer Science with a specialization in Artificial Intelligence. I’m from Bangalore, India and completed my undergrad at the National Institute of Technology Karnataka, Surathkal, also in Computer Science. I’m a huge soccer fan! I love watching and playing soccer, both on the field and on the console. In fact, one of my pet projects focuses on predicting the results of the Barclays Premier League by modeling it as a classification problem!
Chile v. Colombia soccer game @ Soldier Field
Which team do you work on?
I’m on the Behavioral Modeling team in Chicago. BeMod focuses on identifying malicious users who may try to gain access and misuse legitimate user accounts or create a login to a number of accounts with the intention of committing fraud. We have a number of rulesets that help us distinguish between legitimate users and potential violators, which we use to block potentially fraudulent IP addresses and users.
What is your role on the team?
Since our model is based on a fixed ruleset, we notice that the attackers learn the rules over time and modify their behavior accordingly. My role is to use machine learning models to develop a system that can learn to model user behavior based on history. This will allow us to identify patterns of violations and assign trust scores to each IP address that can help us predict if they will commit a violation or not. Not only does this reduce the dependence on manual verification of purchases, it also ensures that we tighten up our rules for those users who we mark as suspicious. We don’t want them slipping through the filters and making potentially fraudulent transactions that can result in severe monetary damage. Prevention is better than a cure!
What has been the most exciting highlight so far?
In my very first week, there was a hacker who tried logging into over 300 Groupon accounts in one day. I observed the entire investigation procedure from a close range. The impact and importance of the work that BeMod does was immediately clear to me. In the following weeks, I got to work on the various techniques we use to preempt these attacks and counter such malicious users.
What else can you tell us about working on the BeMod team?
Most of our work is done in Scala, on a Spark engine. Spark helps us manage large amounts of data and perform operations on it efficiently. The team is open to new ideas and suggestions, as long as you can back it up with evidence. When I proposed a rule change and presented evidence that it would improve the system, it was received well and the change was made! I was surprised by the number of hackers and bots that attempt to breach our system every day but I enjoy having the greater purpose of keeping bad guys away at the end of each day.
How has it been working at Groupon?
Groupon gives you the best of both worlds, being a large company and still maintaining a startup environment. The people I have interacted with are technically some of the best I’ve met and at the same time, really friendly and helpful. The relaxed atmosphere keeps the employees happy and also encourages productivity. The wacky names of the meeting rooms crack me up, it’s like a bunch of friends got together and named them all as an inside joke! ‘Elvis is alive in here,’ ‘Get in here, you son of a gun!’ and ‘Dr. Who?’ just to name a few. My favorite one though, is ‘Houston, we have a meeting!’
What have been the other highlights your summer?
Quite a few! The architecture cruise and the chopping block cooking class that Groupon organized were a lot of fun! I enjoy interacting with the other interns and full time employees. Apart from this, I also enjoy exploring the city of Chicago, with soccer games at Soldier Field and the Fourth of July show at Millennium Park being the highlights. With a Coldplay concert and a Cubs game lined up, there is still a lot to do in the weeks to come!
Cooking class @ the Chopping Block with fellow interns, Shannon and Sid!
Chicago tech interns @ the Shoreline architecture boat cruise!