Two main components make a computer run: Hardware, such as processors and drives, and the software that makes them work. Security problems can occur at both levels - and between. Exactly here, at the interface of hardware and software security, Prof. Dr. Yuval Yarom, Professor of Computer Security at the Faculty of Computer Science at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB), conducts his research. He is also PI of the CASA Cluster of Excellence “Cyber Security in the Age of Large-Scale Adversaries“ at the Horst Görtz Institute for IT Security (HGI).
“The fact that we need security in modern life is clear. We want our banking account only accessible to us and we do not want our private communication to be public“, the scientist explains. “The security of computer systems builds on basic properties of the processors, of the hardware. Without the hardware providing security capabilities, we do not have security at all.“
Making this hardware work in the first place means writing software. In IT security, there is specialized research for both areas, such as software security or embedded security, which relates to hardware. Yuval Yarom's research combines both. For example, he focuses on solutions for cryptographic software that not only performs well independently, i.e. with the correct code but also takes into account the conditions of the hardware, i.e. in terms of implementation and efficiency.
His work involves looking for vulnerabilities that could lead to major security holes in computer systems. At the same time, he uses his research to help software developers make their designs more secure from the outset. “Once we understand the limitations of the computer, in many cases we can design the software so that it's not affected by those limitations. That means we can give developers certain instructions and say: if you take these factors into account, the information will be more secure“, Yarom explains.
From Australia to the Ruhr Area
For his new job in Bochum, Yuval Yarom has even left the Australian beach behind: before joining the RUB, he was an associate professor at the University of Adelaide. “It is a great opportunity for me to be part of a very strong research group in areas that are related to my work, this is the reason why I came here specifically“, he explains his ambitions. Bochum's IT security is now known worldwide for its excellent research - not least because of the CASA Cluster of Excellence, the HGI, and the newly founded Max Planck Institute for Security and Privacy. “Research is not a solitary activity. You cooperate with people, you exchange ideas, learn from each other and find new ways together“, says Yarom. It is beneficial for everyone to be in an environment where you can work with strong people from different fields, he said.
Prof. Dr. Yuval Yarom studied Mathematics and Computer Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem from 1987 to 1993. In 2014, he earned his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Adelaide, where he was an Associate Professor at the School of Computer and Mathematical Sciences until 2023. He has been the Vice President of Research in Memco Software and a co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Girafa.com. Yuval Yarom has received several awards for his research. In addition to two Best Paper Awards (APSys 2018 and EuroSys 2019) and a Distinguished Paper Award (IEEE SP 2019), he received, among others, the Mifal Hapayis Research Prize (1994) and was awarded the Chris Wallace Award for Outstanding Research in 2020.
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