Susan Landau, Professor of Cybersecurity Policy, to be Inducted into the Cyber Security Hall of Fame

Landau recently received the J.D. Falk Award for her contributions to an influential paper arguing against granting the federal government "exceptional access" to encrypted communications
October 26, 2015

Susan Landau, PhD, professor of cybersecurity policy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) and an internationally recognized authority on cybersecurity, privacy, and public policy, will be inducted into the National Cyber Security Hall of Fame on Oct. 29.

Established in 2012, the Hall of Fame honors individuals who "invented the technologies, created awareness, promoted and delivered education, developed and influenced policy, and created businesses to begin addressing the cyber security problem." Landau is one of five new members (chosen from among more than 200 nominees) who will be recognized at the induction ceremony at the Four Seasons Hotel in Baltimore, Md.

"These innovators truly deserve a place in the hall of fame. We are proud to recognize their contributions and honor the influence they have had on the industry at large," said Mike Jacobs, a member of the hall's organizing board. The first information assurance director for the National Security Agency (NSA), Jacobs is currently a cybersecurity consultant to government and industry.

Last week, Landau and her co-authors received the 2015 J.D. Falk Award from the Messaging Malware Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group (M3AAWG) at the group's 35th general meeting in Atlanta. The award is presented annually to recognize work that has made a substantial contribution to the safety of the online community. Landau was honored along with 14 other pre-eminent experts on electronic security and privacy who had issued a report in July that argued against demands by the FBI and other federal agencies for "exceptional access" to encrypted communications.

The report, titled "Keys Under Doormats: Mandating Insecurity by Requiring Government Access to All Data and Communications," noted that not only is such access technically infeasible, it would actually increase the risk of foreign governments, criminals, and terrorists gaining access to confidential information, critical infrastructure, and government secrets. Earlier this month, the Obama administration announced that it would not pursue exceptional access, citing the very concerns that the report raised. In fact, in announcing the decision, the administration gives substantial credit to the report's analysis.

Landau joined the WPI faculty in 2014 after serving as senior staff privacy analyst at Google. She was previously a distinguished engineer at Sun Microsystems where she worked on surveillance issues and helped establish the company's principles on digital rights management. She had also held previous faculty positions at Wesleyan University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst and visiting faculty posts at Cornell, Harvard, and Yale universities and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, Calif.

In recent years, Landau's focus has been the security risks of embedding surveillance in communications infrastructures. She has briefed members of the Unites States and European governments and participated in several industry reports on the issue. She is the author of Surveillance or Security: The Risks Posed by New Wiretapping Technologies (MIT Press), which won the 2012 Surveillance Studies Book Prize from the Surveillance Studies Network. With Whitfield Diffie, the inventor of public-key cryptography, she wrote Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption (MIT Press 1998; revised in 2007), which received the 1998 Donald McGannon Communication Policy Research Award and the 1999 IEEE-USA Award for Distinguished Literary Contributions Furthering Public Understanding of the Profession. She is also the primary author of the 1994 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) report "Codes, Keys, and Conflicts: Issues in US Crypto Policy."

She has served as a member of the National Research Council Computer Science and Telecommunications Board and the advisory committee for the National Science Foundation's Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. She previously served on the Center for Strategic and International Studies Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency.

Landau is a frequent contributor to national conversations about the impact of modern technology and government policies on privacy and security. In January, in an essay in Science magazine, she argued that traditional methods for protecting privacy online—methods that put the onus on users to understand how their data may be collected and used and to consent to those uses—are no longer effective. She argues, instead, that we must have laws and policies that help control the use of data. She has also written about such topics as the Edward Snowden revelations, the NSA's practice of collecting massive volumes of information on domestic telephone conversations and social media posts, and the growing quantity of personal information being held in corporate and government computers in the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Christian Science Monitor, Scientific American, the Huffington Post, and numerous other publications. She has also appeared frequently on public radio and television programs, including PBS Newshour and The Takeaway.

For her work on behalf of women researchers and her involvement in public policy on wiretapping and encryption, Landau received a Woman of Vision Social Impact Award from the Anita Borg Institute in 2008. In 2010–11, she was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, where she explored security and privacy and policy issues surrounding government computer systems. In 2012 she was a Guggenheim Fellow and a visiting scholar in the Department of Computer Science at Harvard University. A fellow of ACM and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, she earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics at Princeton University, an MS in mathematics at Cornell University, and a PhD in computer science at MIT.