I am fortunate to have a front-row seat to some of the most exciting, innovative, and brilliant work of our times — talking to Technion-related thought leaders all over the world is definitely one of the biggest perks of my job. I’d like to start sharing more of these conversations with you, in blog and social media posts I’ll call “Technion Three Questions,” or #Technion3Qs. Today’s guest, in honor of National Cyber Security Awareness Month, is Ari Juels, a renowned computer scientist and professor at the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech.
Q1: As a cyber expert at the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute, what do you think is the biggest cyber threat today?
I’d highlight a couple that are of interest from a geopolitical perspective, with a U.S.-centric view. Cyberattacks by state actors that erode confidence in the outcome of the presidential election are a big, realistic, and proximate threat, aggravated by the doubts about the integrity of the system irresponsibly sowed by one of the candidates. A less visible, but perhaps equally pernicious geopolitical threat, is the silent theft of intellectual property from the United States by other nations. Such attacks harm not only U.S. industry, but also national security. And they are occurring on a truly massive scale.
Q2: What do most people not know about Internet security?
A rising threat that most people are oblivious about, but that happily researchers and policymakers are becoming increasingly sensitized to, is “algorithmic fairness.” Algorithms are increasingly making key decisions in our lives, filtering the news we see, computing our credit scores, sifting through our job and loan applications, and so forth. In many cases, even the creators of these algorithms don’t know how they work. They just train a machine learning model using existing data. Thus there are serious risks of hidden bias or error. Some high-profile cases, such as Staples’ inadvertent discriminatory pricing regime, illustrate the threat, but we don’t yet have good tools or practices to address it.
Q3: What new kinds of thinking are you seeing from your students who are preparing to be the next generation of cyber security experts?
My students are especially excited about blockchains and cryptocurrency, and thus viewing security as an enabling force, rather than just a tool to defend systems from breaches. Blockchains enable trust relationships to be forged between people and entities without longstanding relationships, sometimes in remarkable ways. Trust is, of course, the foundation of a flourishing society, so there are real opportunities for cryptography and security to improve well-being.
Learn more about how the Technion is helping transform New York City via the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech www.ats.org/nyc.