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Northeastern professor recognized for contributions in cybersecurity

Photo: John Manferdelli, the director of the Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute, gives a talk about cyberresiliency in Renaissance Park on Sept. 11, 2018. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

John Manferdelli, the executive director of Northeastern’s Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute, has been recognized for his work on the Defense Science Board, a committee of civilians who advise the U.S. Department of Defense on matters of science and technology, and for a recent 15-month-long study and report on supply chain cybersecurity.

Manferdelli, professor of the practice at the Khoury College of Computer Sciences, was awarded the 2018 SANS Difference Maker Award by SANS Institute, a U.S. company that is a worldwide leader in cybersecurity training and certifications for the IT industry.

In its announcement Monday, SANS institute recognized Manferdelli, as well as former Assistant Secretary of the Army Paul J. “Page” Hoeper, and their team at the Defense Science Board, for playing “leading roles on the task force which recommended a set of technical and organizational measures for acquiring and developing more secure hardware and software technologies.”

“The work of the Defense Science Board task force has led to effective actions by the Department of Defense that address the challenges of supply chain security,” the SANS institute said in its announcement of the award at the company’s Cyber Defense Initiative Conference in Washington, D.C.

Carla Brodley, dean of the Khoury College of Computer and Information Sciences, said the SANS award reaffirms the belief “that John was the perfect person to lead Northeastern’s Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute.”

Manferdelli, she said, is “one of the most knowledgeable people about cybersecurity in the world, having worked in frontline security research labs and as the executive director of one of the top cybersecurity institutes in the country.”

“His work on the defense science board is a service to our country and I can think of no one more deserving of this award than the members of the Defense Science Board,” Brodley said.

Manferdelli said that the SANS award came as a surprise for him and his team.

“There has never been a non-governmental award for the DSB as far as I know,” he said. “I’m glad the Defense Science Board was given this credit as an organization. It’s a great place to contribute and learn.”

Past recipients of the award include the Federal Trade Commission, U.S. military officers, and government officials.

Manferdelli comes from a research and industry background: He was recruited in 2017 from Google, where he was engineering director, to become the first director of Northeastern’s Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute. Previously, he was senior principal engineer and co-principal investigator at the Intel Science and Technology Center at the University of California, Berkeley. He spent 16 years working at Microsoft in top research and management positions.

Manferdelli said that in recent years, there has been a “culture shift” in commercial companies, as attacks that previously were a government problem have become a private sector risk as well because of the ubiquity of networked technology and the Internet of Things.

“Since the government buys so much from the commercial world, supply chains overlap in both hardware and software,” he said.

Northeastern’s cybersecurity program stands out for the collaboration between faculty and government, as well as the interdisciplinary collaboration within the university.

Manferdelli cited his work with Northeastern’s School of Law  and Department of Political Science, noting that “cybersecurity has dramatically affected privacy and regulations around security.”

Of his own work with Google, Intel, and Microsoft to secure their systems, Manferdelli said, “We’ve made things a lot safer.”

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