In recognition of two decades of contributions to cryptography and cybersecurity and in celebration of work that continues to address important security risks worldwide, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is hosting a symposium titled "20 Years of Cryptography and Security Research" on Monday, Oct. 19.
The symposium is geared for academic and industry leaders, alumni, and others who are interested in current and future trends, risks and challenges in cybersecurity.
The event takes place as American companies and organizations are increasingly under cyberattack from various countries, groups, and individuals. In an effort to address those issues, WPI has been a leader in designing secure systems that rely on engineering practices, analyses, mindsets, and design processes.
"For the past 20 years, WPI has been a leader in cybersecurity research, and we are pleased to host this forum to discuss many of the security challenges facing industry and society today," said Berk Sunar, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and a co-organizer of the symposium. "WPI is committed to helping address national needs in cybersecurity."
In a timely matter, Thomas Eisenbarth, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, will give a talk titled "Are Cache Attacks on Public Clouds Practical?" A team of WPI researchers working with Sunar and Eisenbarth simulated a hack on Amazon’s public cloud that could potentially compromise sensitive user information across co-located instances.
Six other speakers are scheduled to present at the forum, including Christof Paar, who offered the first experimental introductory course in Cryptography and Data Security at WPI in the fall of 1995. Paar, now a professor at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany, will summarize how crypto teaching and research evolved at WPI from 1995 to 2001.
Susan Landau, professor of cybersecurity policy at WPI, will then deliver a talk titled "Crypto Wars: Plus ça Change, Plus C'est la Même Chose." Her discussion will highlight the role played by the U.S. government and cryptographers, industry, and academia in ongoing encryption issues.
Other speakers include Jeffrey Hoffstein of Brown University, who will address homomorphic encryption; André Weimerskirch of University of Michigan, who will discuss connected vehicle cybersecurity; Sunar, who will address cybersecurity research and education efforts at WPI; and Wajdi Feghali of Intel Corp.
Two years ago, WPI was designated as a Center of Excellence in Cybersecurity Research in a program jointly managed by the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
WPI is unique in that the faculty members in its Cybersecurity Program study security from a wide range of perspectives, with professors working in hardware, embedded systems, wireless protocols, secure system architectures, software systems, and end-user security.
WPI has a long history in security research. After Paar offered the first cryptography course in 1995—the year that saw the release of the first popular web browsers, Netscape and Internet Explorer, and the debut of Amazon.com—the Workshop on Cryptographic Hardware and Embedded Systems (CHES) Workshop was founded at WPI in 1999. The workshop evolved into the premier international forum for applied crypto, making WPI one of the prominent institutions for applied security research.
In 2000, Sunar and William Martin, professor of mathematical sciences, joined the Cryptography and Information Security (CRIS) Laboratory, allowing an expansion of the research activities and security course offerings. Since 1995, thousands of students—both full-time WPI students and employees of area companies such as EMC, General Dynamics, Intel, Mitre and Raytheon—have taken the security courses and contributed to research in the CRIS Lab.
From its beginning at the start of the dot.com years, the Cybersecurity program has flourished at WPI. Today, the program encompasses nearly 20 faculty members spread across the Electrical and Computer Engineering, Computer Science and Mathematical Sciences departments.