Give young infosec boffins more cash or BAD THINGS will happen – RSA boff

State-sponsored malware already making crypto 'irrelevant'

Strawberries suitable for growing in space. Credit: Purdue University

RSA Europe 2013 Declining support for young science and technology researchers from the US government could hurt technology innovation in the long term, a top computer scientist has warned.

Robert Griffin, chief security architect at information security biz RSA, said complaints about funding featured in all three pairs of Nobel Prize acceptance speeches this year.

Funding is not too much of a problem for established researchers but for "younger researchers there's pressure to publish early or quickly," said Griffin. Government funding for academic research has been cut because of tough economic conditions – but, said Griffin, this is a short-sighted approach because it will hurt researchers over the long term.

Zurich-based Griffin, who has given lectures at MIT and is heavily involved in the EU's Smart Grid project, said that industry needs to engage in the research community. Yet other sources of support are also needed because research breakthroughs can take years to filter down into front-line products.

For example, the RSA algorithm was the result of work by three young researchers - Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Len Adleman - in 1976. RSA Security was formed six years later in 1984.

During the US edition of the RSA Conference, Shamir said that cryptography is “becoming less important” because of state-sponsored malware. The godfather of encryption warned the security industry to prepare for a 'post-crypto world'.

Griffin, who is also co-chair of the OASIS Key Management Interoperability Protocol (KMIP) technical committee, was more upbeat and optimistic. While he stressed the need for continuous review of code, and highlighted the danger potentially posed by prime factorisation methods and other code-breaking techniques, he added that there's still an "opportunity for breakthroughs" in cryptography protocols and schemes.

At a more strategic level, game theory offers a possible means to get ahead of attackers – or, at least, to develop better techniques that can thwart or frustrate hacking attacks, according to Griffin.

Such strategies might include changing crypto keys at a frequency rapid enough to make brute force attacks unviable, as explained in more depth in a paper on the application of game theory to security problems co-authored by Griffin and Ron Rivest.

Griffin added that using security analytics and other techniques, such as the application of the DevOps method, offers a combined approach for improving security defences. ®

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