Ari Juels' fascination with numbers is the stuff of fiction, literally.
The chief scientist and director of RSA Laboratories recently completed a novel in which the protagonist is hired by the U.S. government to counter the efforts of Pythagoreans, a Greek group that believed in the supremacy of numbers--subscribing to the notion that by mastering numbers, one could understand and control the forces of the universe.
That concept, he told ZDNet Asia during a recent visit to Singapore, had been "a little silly" until cryptography developed to a stage where "mastery of certain mathematical problems could in principle lead to considerable power over computing resources and consequently over our lives."
The book, which will be launched at the RSA Conference 2009 in San Francisco in April, was in essence, the coming together of two of Juels' interests--computer security and classical literature. He graduated from Amherst College in 1991 with degrees in Latin Literature and Mathematics.
Thirty-eight-year-old Juels, who joined RSA in 1996, shed some light on recent RFID (radio frequency identification) issues in e-passports, identity documents, and transport-related systems, as well as how to balance security and privacy.
Q: What are you currently working on? Juels: With the acquisition of RSA by EMC, we've turned our attention to some of the special security problems that storage systems present. In particular, we've looked at...the ability of a client to verify that a file that is stored on remote servers is still there--intact. We've been able to develop a protocol which accomplishes the seemingly paradoxical property of enabling a client to verify that a file is completely intact--that every bit is there, not a single bit has been changed--without downloading the file. In fact, the archiving service can send a very short proof--some tens of bytes--and that's enough for the client to establish that the file is completely retrievable. That's been a major area of research for us.
Is there a name for this concept? Juels: There've been several names. I guess the most recent is an acronym called HAIL, for High Availability and Integrity Layer.… Read more