Best Cybersecurity Research Paper Revealed

The National Security Agency has announced the winning entry to its ninth annual Best Cybersecurity Research Paper Competition.

The winning paper was written by Yanyi Liu from Cornell University and Rafael Pass, professor of Computer Science at Cornell Tech. It expounded a theorem that relates the existence of one-way functions (OWFs) to a measurement of the complexity of a string of text. 

“OWFs are vital components of modern symmetric encryptions, digital signatures, authentic schemes and more,” said an NSA spokesperson. 

“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.”

Titled On One-way Functions and Kolmogorov Complexity, the winning paper was published at the 2020 IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science. 

The chief of NSA’s Laboratory for Advanced Cybersecurity Research picked the winning entry in a decision informed by the opinions of 10 distinguished international cybersecurity experts who independently reviewed the top papers among 34 nominations.

“One-way functions are a key underpinning in many modern cryptography systems and were first proposed in 1976 by Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman,” said an NSA spokesperson.

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

The NSA gave an honorable mention to another 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.

Originally published at the USENIX Security Conference 2020, this paper provides a security solution in the Firefox web browser. The paper also demonstrated that the technology could be applied to other situations.

“NSA congratulates the winners, and recently opened the nomination process for the 10th Annual Best Scientific Cybersecurity Paper Competition on January 15 2022,” said the NSA.

The agency said it will welcome nominations of papers published during 2021 in peer-reviewed journals, magazines, or technical conferences that show “an outstanding contribution to cybersecurity science.”

The nomination period for the 10th annual Best Cybersecurity Research Paper Competition closes on 15 April 2022.

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