Towards a Science for Security

18 Nov
11/18/2010 -
11:00am to 12:00pm
Distinguished Lecturer Series

Fred Schneider
Cornell University
Computer Science Department

Computer Science Building, Rooms 150 & 151

Faculty Host: Richards Adrion

Cyber-security today is focused largely on defending against known attacks. We learn about the latest attack and find a patch to defend against it. So our defenses improve only after they have been successfully penetrated. This is a recipe to ensure some attackers succeed---not a recipe for achieving system trustworthiness.

We must move beyond reacting to yesterday's attacks and instead start building systems whose trustworthiness derives from first principles. Yet today we lack the understanding to adopt that proactive approach; it's not only a matter of engineering, but we lack a science base for cyber-security. This talk will survey recent and promising avenues toward building that science base and toward creating a principled basis for engineering trustworthy systems.


Fred B. Schneider is Samuel B. Eckert Professor of Computer Science at Cornell University. He joined the Cornell faculty in Fall 1978, having completing a Ph.D. at Stony Brook University, preceded by a B.S. in Engineering from Cornell in 1975. Schneider currently also serves as the Chief Scientist for the NSF-funded TRUST Science and Technology Center, which brings together researchers at U.C. Berkeley, Carnegie-Mellon University, Cornell University, Stanford University, and Vanderbilt University.

Schneider's research has focused on various aspects of trustworthy systems --- systems that perform as expected, despite failures and attacks. His early work concerned formal methods to aid in the design and implementation of concurrent and distributed systems that satisfy their specifications; he is author of two texts on that subject: On Concurrent Programming and (co-authored with D. Gries) A Logical Approach to Discrete Mathematics. He is also known for his research in theory and algorithms for building fault-tolerant distributed systems. For example, his paper on the "state machine approach" for managing replication received an SOSP "Hall of Fame" award for seminal research. More recently, his interests have turned to system security. His work characterizing what policies can be enforced with various classes of defenses is widely cited, and it is seen as advancing the nascent science base for security. He is also engaged in research concerning legal and economic measures for improving system trustworthiness.

Schneider was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1992, the Association of Computing Machinery in 1995, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in 2008. He was named Professor-at-Large at the University of Tromso (Norway) in 1996, and was awarded a Doctor of Science honoris causa by the University of NewCastle-upon-Tyne in 2003 for his work in computer dependability and security.

Schneider has served since Sept 2006 as a member of the Information Security and Privacy Advisory Board (ISPAB), which advises NIST, the Secretary of Commerce, and the Director of OMB on information security and privacy issues pertaining to Federal information systems. He is also a member of the Defense Science Board. He chaired the National Academies CSTB study on information systems trustworthiness that produced the 1999 volume Trust in Cyberspace. He also served as a member of CSTB from 2002-2008 and served from 2004-2007 on the CSTB study committee for improving cyber-security research. Schneider was a member of the NSF CISE advisory committee 2002-2006. And in Fall 2001, he chaired the United Kingdom's pentennial external review of research funding for academic Computer Science.

In 2007, Schneider was elected to the board of directors of the Computing Research Association (CRA) and appointed to the steering committee of CRA's Computing Community Consortium. And he now chairs the Government Affairs board of CRA.

A reception will be held at 3:40 in the atrium, outside the presentation room.