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Computer Scientist Earns Prestigious ACM Award for Encryption Achievement

Computer Scientist Earns Prestigious ACM Award for Encryption Achievement

Brent Waters of The University of Texas at Austin has been selected to receive the Grace Murray Hopper Award from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). This award recognizes the outstanding young computer professional of the year for a recent major technical or service contribution that was made at 35 years of age or less.

Waters, an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science, was chosen to receive the award by his peers in the ACM for "the introduction and development of the concepts of attribute-based encryption and functional encryption." The award is accompanied by a prize of $35,000 and will be presented at the ACM Awards Banquet on June 11. 

Waters' research focuses on the areas of cryptography and computer security. In particular, he has worked on finding new methods for securing stored data by using a special type of encryption he helped devise, known as functional encryption

Functional encryption is a way of securing data, while allowing partial access to it based upon aspects that may change over time. For instance, a student database could be shared in such a way that no one could see any data that was not relevant to their needs. An academic advisor would see only grade and class information, a campus police officer could only see emergency contact information and a financial aid officer would only have access to financial records. All other information would be hidden to these users. 

"You could also imagine that someone needs to do a study and needs a key that computes the average grades of all students who took on an undergraduate research project in one semester," said Waters. "However, one would not learn the individual grades of such students or even which ones were part of the 'research project dataset.'" 

Among his many other honors, Waters has received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) and has been named a Sloan Research Fellow, a Packard Fellow and a Microsoft Faculty Fellow.

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Tuesday, 07 February 2023

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