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Secure Systems expert joins Computer Science Department

Joining Surrey’s Department of Computer Science as a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Research Fellow, Dr Ioana Boureanu aims to drive innovative research in provably secure authentication solutions and verification of security and privacy.

Dr Boureanu has joined the University as an EU H2020 funded Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow and is set to become a Lecturer in Secure Systems from July 2017. She will collaborate with the 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) and the Institute for Communication Systems (ICS).

A core member of the Surrey Centre for Cyber Security (SCCS), Dr Boureanu’s research is focused on cryptographic design (particularly for authentication solutions), formal security proofs, and automated tools for the verification of security and privacy properties – an area of strength for SCCS.

Dr Boureanu is particularly interested in authentication mechanisms which allow the users to be identified by means of cryptographic material as well as a second, non-cryptographic factor – such as the physical distance from the authenticating device. She explains: “In many scenarios, for example remote car-unlocking, access should be granted to users holding the right credentials (ie the key-fob) but if, and only if they are also in close proximity to the vehicle. By using a solution called ‘authenticated distance-bounding’, we are able to reduce the possibility of an attacker fraudulently controlling someone’s car from afar.”

Designs in this space also need to be computationally lightweight to best serve application-domains executing within constrained resources, as is the case with the Internet of Things. Dr Boureanu is co-designer of several authenticated distance-bounding protocols which are both efficient and provably secure, and has filed for patents in this field.

Formerly a security architect at Akamai (a global leader in Content Delivery Networks), Dr Boureanu is also exploring the field of ‘application layer security’: the protection of data and users within applications executing on computer-systems and networks.

She explains: “In the past, internet communications generally involved two parties – for example, a single and direct communication link between you and an email-server. However, as we have moved towards a hyper-connected world, there is an increasing number of parties involved in these links, which are also often deployed over non-standard architectures. This poses new threats, especially when existing cryptographic protocols continue to be used in these modern, augmented settings.”

Dr Boureanu is exploring research in this area with several collaborators in France including Dr Cristina Onete of IRISA, Rennes, and Dr Karthik Bhargavan of INRIA, Paris.

The opportunity to join the Department of Computer Science’s Secure Systems group (the core of SCCS) and also work closely with Surrey’s 5GIC – a leading UK hub for research into fifth generation mobile technology – were the key reasons why Dr Boureanu decided to join the University.

 “One of my immediate goals is to work with colleagues in the Secure Systems group and SCCS, as well as building collaborations with the 5GIC and ICS, in order to further explore the opportunities presented by lightweight authentication mechanisms. One of my longer-term aims is to develop a complete authentication solution tailored to certain IoT and 5G application-domains, which is both provably secure and works well in practice.”, she says.

Ioana’s fascination with cyber security arose from her initial interest in the theoretical, mathematical foundations of computing. After a BSc degree in Computing (vale dictorian) from the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University in Iasi, Romania, she gained a PhD in formal verification of security protocols at Imperial College London, before working as a postdoctoral researcher, lecturer and security professional both in academia and industry.

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