Winner: NSA Best Cyber Security Research Paper

The US National Security Agency has announced the winning paper in the 9th annual Best Cybersecurity Research Paper Competition.

This year’s winning paper advances a theorem that relates the existence of one-way functions (OWF) by relating them to the problem of computing “Time-bound Kolmogorov complexity" which is a way to measure the complexity of a string of text. 

Written by Yanyi Liu from Cornell University and Rafael Pass from Cornell Tech, the paper titled “On One-way Functions and Kolmogorov Complexity” was published at the 2020 IEEE Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science.

Established in 2013, the competition encourages the development of scientific foundations in cyber security and supports cybersecurity improvements within devices, computers, and systems through rigorous research, solid scientific methodology, documentation and publishing. 

The winning paper was chosen by the Chief of NSA’s Laboratory for Advanced Cybersecurity Research. The decision was informed by reviews from 10 international cybersecurity distinguished experts who independently reviewed the best papers among 34 nominations.

One-way functions (OWF) are a key underpinning in many modern cryptography systems and were first proposed in 1976 by Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman. OWFs are vital components of modern symmetric encryptions, digital signatures, authentic schemes and more. Until now, it has been assumed that OWF functions exist even though research shows that they are both necessary and sufficient for much of the security provided by cryptography.

These functions can be efficiently computed but are difficult to reverse, as determining the input based on the output is computationally expensive. 

Receiving honorable mention was the paper “Retrofitting Fine Grain Isolation in the Firefox Renderer” written by Shravan Narayan, Craig Disselhoen, Tal Garfinkel, Nathan Froyd, Sorin Lerner Hovav Shacham and Deian Stefan.  This paper was originally published at the USENIX Security Conference 2020 and provides a security solution for use in the Firefox web browser while also demonstrating that that technology can be utilized for other situations.  The solution, RLBox, is a culmination of many advances that enable software to securely use software components, such as libraries, which have not been verified as trustworthy. RLBox has been incorporated into Firefox 95.

The NSA has opened the nomination process for the 10th Annual Best Scientific Cybersecurity Paper Competition for  papers published during 2021 in peer-reviewed journals, magazines, or technical conferences that show an outstanding contribution to cyber security science. The nomination period closes on 15 April 2022.

Visit the Best Scientific Cybersecurity Paper webpage for more information on the paper competition and to nominate a paper for the 10th completion.

NSA

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