NSF Funds Research to Enable Distributed, Fair and Privacy-Preserving Collaboration

   Story by Schaefer School of Engineering & Science

September 23, 2010

Dr. Susanne Wetzel of Stevens Institute of TechnologyDr. Susanne Wetzel, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Stevens Institute of Technology, has recently been awarded a $457K research grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to investigate privacy and security in the context of enabling collaboration.

“As a recognized National Security Administration Center of Academic Excellence in both Information Assurance Research and Education, Stevens Institute of Technology is at the forefront of research in advanced solutions for secure and private computing,” says Michael Bruno, Dean of the Schaefer School of Engineering and Science.

Dr. Wetzel’s successful proposal, “Distributed Privacy—Privacy-Preserving Policy Reconciliation,” supports core security research in the Department of Computer Science. Falling under the umbrella of computer security, privacy-preserving policy reconciliation is a field of study with many real-world applications of interest to companies and governments --- enabling computer-based collaboration without exposing private or sensitive information.

A problem with conventional policy reconciliation methods is that at least one of the parties that wish to collaborate is required to disclose its policy data, even though it may be preferable to keep such information private. In business-to-buisiness collaborations, it is critical for the companies to preserve as much of the privacy of their policies in order to maintain a competitive advantage. In consumer-to-business collaborations, consumers, on the other hand, are often forced to disclose their own private policies and have little to no influence in the transactions that govern the services they use.

A policy, as Dr. Wetzel explains, “Is a collection of rules that express which actions are permitted and which are disallowed in a system.” In order to allow multiple parties to collaborate, their policies must first be reconciled. Operations of this sort are becoming commonplace, for example, in roaming agreements between wireless telephone service providers and are expected to play a large role in Future Internet Architectures. While trusted third parties could be used to referee reconciliations, this comes at the expense of having additional parties involved as well as the need for trust assumptions with regards to those parties. The central goal of the proposed research is to develop distributed protocols that provide security, privacy, and fairness without the need for a trusted third party.

This research is carried out in collaboration with Dr. Meyer’s research group at the UMIC Research Center at RWTH Aachen in Germany. Independently of the NSF funding, Dr. Meyer’s group has recently received funding for this project from the DFG in the amount of 250K Euro.

Impact at Stevens

The award of this substantial, three-year NSF grant will further enhance the status of computer security studies at Stevens Institute of Technology, The Innovation UniversityTM, as well as create new learning opportunities for cybersecurity students. In addition to the research element, this grant will also support student research, seminars, and other outreach opportunities in the field of cybersecurity.

Dr. Susanne Wetzel of Stevens Institute of TechnologyDr. Wetzel’s work in information security is also funded by NSF grants awarded in 2008 and 2009. These awards not only support Dr. Wetzel’s own research, but also specifically promote undergraduate education at Stevens.

“Dr. Wetzel’s latest NSF grant will further enhance the high-caliber research and instructional programs at Stevens,” says Dr. Daniel Duchamp, Computer Science Department Director.

Dr. Wetzel coordinates the Center for the Advancement of Secure Systems and Information Assurance, which provides research and scholarship opportunities in cybersecurity to students. The research and teaching through this center allows students at Stevens to obtain a comprehensive education in cybersecurity making them highly-sought after candidates for cybersecurity jobs in academia, industry and government alike.

To find out more about Dr. Wetzel’s research and learning opportunities at Stevens Institute of Technology, please visit the professor’s research profile and the homepage for the Department of Computer Science.

NSF Funds Research to Enable Distributed Fair and Privacy-Preserving Collaboration

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