Cybersecurity paper on government backdoors earns 2016 EFF award

A team from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) receives Electronic Frontier Foundation’s “Pioneer Award”
A team from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) receives Electronic Frontier Foundation’s “Pioneer Award”

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A team from CSAIL has been awarded the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) 2016 Pioneer Award for their paper “Keys Under Doormats” on government backdoors and data security. EFF instituted the award in 1992 to spotlight those dedicated to expanding freedom and creativity in the technology sector.

The CSAIL team’s report argues that allowing law-enforcement agencies to be able to access encrypted data to help them solve crimes poses major security risks to people’s information.

The authors of the report were noted for bringing technical and scientific clarity to the encryption debate as a part of the global narrative on security.

“[The report] both reviews the underlying technical considerations of the earlier encryption debate of the 1990s and examines the modern systems realities in the 21st century, creating a
compelling, comprehensive, and scientifically grounded argument to protect and extend the availability of encrypted digital information and communications,” the EFF announced in a related news story. “The authors of the report are all security experts, building the case that no
knowledgeable encryption researchers believe that weakening encryption for surveillance purposes could allow for any truly secure digital transactions.”

The award is chosen by EFF staff and focuses on innovative contributions in accessibility, health, growth, or freedom of computer-based communications in ways that are technical, academic, legal, social, economic, or cultural. The team is joining a list of inventive individuals and groups including Representative Zoe Lofgren, Senator Ron Wyden, activist Aaron Swartz,  Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia, the Tor Project, Citizen Lab, and many more.

CSAIL contributors to the report include professors Hal Abelson and Ron Rivest, PhD student Michael Specter, Information Services and Technology network manager Jeff Schiller, and principal research scientist Daniel Weitzner, who spearheaded the work as director of MIT’s Internet Policy Research Initiative (IPRI).

The group also includes cryptography expert Bruce Schneier and researchers from Stanford University, Columbia University, Cambridge University, Johns Hopkins University, Microsoft Research, SRI International, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.