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Cybersecurity research with impact

Niels Provos, Distinguished Engineer at Google, gives the keynote address at an opening event Friday for the Northeastern University Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Northeastern faculty and top cybersecurity executives from across the country convened Friday at an opening event for Northeastern’s Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute, where these security experts examined today’s most pressing cybersecurity challenges and shared their latest research.

John Manferdelli, who Northeastern recruited from Google to lead the institute, underscored the importance and impact of cybersecurity research. “When I first came here, I looked at the sectors of the economy: every single one is really profoundly affected by cyber,” he said to the some 120 attendees gathered in the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex auditorium. “But continued progress really relies on understandable security. A foundation of that is research.”

Niels Provos, Distinguished Engineer at Google, delivered the keynote, in which he discussed the state of security, practical applications of computer security research, and opportunities ahead for cybersecurity researchers. Among the challenges ahead are stemming the growing trend of major data security breaches, such as the one Equifax recently experienced. He said cybersecurity infrastructure is so complex that it can be difficult for users to understand. He added that software updates still represent one of the most effective data security methods, though some software is difficult to update and users don’t always do so.

Provos also highlighted ways in which Google is addressing these issues, including its launch this month of its Advanced Protection Program, which is tailored to the small set of users who are particularly at high risk for targeted online attacks.

“When we look at security research, we should not limit ourselves to just the technical side,” Provos added. “We really need to think about how this translates into practice. How can we do research that can be comprehensively adopted so that we end up in a place where we don’t lose our data every other day?”

Northeastern’s Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute brings together faculty, research scientists, students, government, and industry to develop new insights into today’s key security problems and deploy novel research techniques into the field. Also on Friday, Northeastern faculty led presentations and breakout sessions exploring this very research in areas such as internet of things security, the boundaries of privacy, cloud security, and resilient machine learning.

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