Profile: Ari Juels

Name: Ari Juels

Title: Chief scientist and director

Company: RSA Laboratories

Age: 37

Industry: IT/computer-related services/consulting

30-second biography: While it's common to conceive of cryptography exclusively in terms of encryption and operations like digital signing, Juels has taken a particular interest in the boundaries of the field. He developed cryptographic techniques to protect against denial-of-service attacks, and his research on "fuzzy cryptography" has evolved into features used in RSA products to secure answers to personal questions used in password recovery (e.g., "What is your mother's maiden name?").

Over the past few years, he has focused on the security and privacy problems posed by radio frequency identification tags. In addition to uncovering weaknesses in common RFID-enabled car ignition keys and payment devices, Juels has developed privacy-enhancing and anti-counterfeiting tools for the embryonic technology.

He is a co-founder of the start-up RavenWhite Inc., whose projects include a new approach to browser authentication as a tool to combat click fraud. And in the wake of RSA's acquisition by EMC, he has started turning his attention to the problems of storage security, looking beyond traditional tools like encryption.

Current project: I'm working on a piece of cryptographic trickery that I call a "proof of retrievability" (POR). POR enables a server to prove to a user that it has a complete, intact copy of the user's files. With users relying increasingly on remote services for backup or even primary storage, they often have to turn to the obvious thing, downloading their files, to gain this reassurance. Magically, a POR can be very short - just tens of bytes or so - even if the files in question are many gigabytes in length. Additionally, a server can create a POR without accessing more than a small fraction of a user's files, and a user can check a POR using just a password or key. I believe that PORs can support ecological network use by alleviating the need to move entire files across a network in the name of availability assurance.

Who in the technology industry most influenced your career? With his rare ability to bestride the gap between solid research and real-world influence, professor Ron Rivest has been a guiding light. Among his other accomplishments, he was one of the three scientists who transformed a simple equation (c = m^e mod n) into a mainstay of IT security deployed in every PC today.

The technology you can't live without: I incline toward the long view. The technology whose loss I'd feel most acutely is the printing press. I look forward to the prospect of seeing new competitors arise in my lifetime.

Most critical technologies for IT this year: I foresee one truly pivotal change this year: The consumer will usurp the place of the enterprise in the vanguard of IT technology. Video games, in particular, are seeing transformation from play spaces into collaborative environments and from simulators of wealth into real stores of wealth.

The best thing about today's technology: The incredibly rapid pace at which it is ceding place to tomorrow's technology.

The worst thing about today's technology: It's largely conceived of, by and for technologists.

Technology can . . . only serve as a wire to the electricity of thought.

Favorite Web sites:

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