The National Science Foundation (NSF) has once again recognized research excellence in the Department of Computer Science at Stony Brook University by awarding Assistant Professor Omkant Pandey an Early Career Development Grant.
Pandey is a Senior Fellow of the National Security Institute at Stony Brook University. He teaches courses in security and theoretical computer science at the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and advises several graduate students. Pandey earned his doctorate in computer science from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Pandey’s CAREER research focuses on how to secure our computing systems against an adversary equipped with quantum computing technology. Quantum computers can be much faster than traditional computers and can break almost any cryptographic system in deployment today that is used to secure data on the Internet.
The threat of quantum computers must therefore be taken seriously when designing secure cryptographic protocols. The goal of Pandey’s grant is to create cryptographic protocols to perform tasks securely on the Internet while protecting against adversaries equipped with quantum computers. These protocols avoid mathematical problems such as factorization, RSA and discrete logarithm on which traditional cryptographic systems are based. Instead, they focus on mathematical techniques such as lattices and block ciphers that are also difficult for quantum computers.
There is another serious problem that arises when dealing with quantum-capable adversaries. The rules of quantum mechanics imply that the state of a quantum machine cannot be exactly copied — that is, “cloned” — without disturbing it. It’s fundamentally different from our computers today where all data and code can be cloned as many times as we want without affecting the rest of the system. As a result, many cryptographic protocols in use no longer remain secure against a quantum computer because their security relies on cloning information indefinitely.
Pandey’s CAREER research also focuses on developing new techniques to prove the security of cryptographic protocols without copying quantum information. It particularly focuses on security “on the Internet”, where many programs and processes are running simultaneously without each other’s knowledge. Security in this framework, often referred to as “concurrent security”, is difficult to achieve because the adversary can launch coordinated attacks on many users by simultaneously controlling many sessions. Pandey will investigate alternative non-cloning methods to build fundamental tools needed to achieve concurrent security, but which currently require cloning.
Department of Computer Science Chairman Samir R. Das expressed strong support for Pandey’s research. “With the goal of solving critical security issues, Omkant’s CAREER research provides innovative methodologies to transform the field of post-quantum cryptography and secure computing,” Das said.
Working with a team of PhD students in his lab, this more than $400,000 NSF research funding builds on Omkant’s early efforts under the University’s National Security Institute (NSI). from Stony Brook and expands the scope of secure computing methodologies. To broaden the impact of this CAREER research, Omkant has developed an educational plan that targets three key areas: mentoring, outreach, and classroom integration. Together, these efforts will have a broad impact on a number of graduate, undergraduate and high school students; teachers; and adults looking for a new career.