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J. Alex Halderman Selected for Sloan Research Fellowship

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Assistant Professor J. Alex Halderman has been selected for a Sloan Research Fellowship by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for his work in the science of computer and network security with an emphasis on problems that broadly impact society and public policy.

Prof. Halderman’s research interests span software security, network security, data privacy, anonymity, electronic voting, censorship resistance, digital rights management, computer forensics, ethics, and cybercrime, as well as the interaction of technology with law, governmental regulation, and international affairs.

In the area of Internet security, Prof. Halderman led a research effort that mined large sets of network data and exposed serious weaknesses in RSA and DSA cryptographic key generation affecting millions of servers, which led to major changes to the Linux kernel. To help other researchers apply similar techniques, his research team created ZMap, an open-source tool for performing Internet-wide network surveys that can probe the entire IPv4 address space in minutes. His team used these techniques to provide early monitoring in the aftermath of the infamous OpenSSL Heartbleed vulnerability and to suggest improvements to HTTPS certificate authorities.

In the area of censorship resistance, Prof. Halderman introduced a fundamentally new approach to circumventing state-level Internet censorship, called Telex, based on placing anticensorship technology into ISP network backbones outside the censoring country. He worked with collaborators inside of Iran to publish the first peer-reviewed technical study of Iran’s national censorship infrastructure, revealing much about the extent and nature of one of the largest and most sophisticated Internet censorship regimes in the world.

Prof. Halderman has been quite active in the area of electronic voting in which his work has influenced election practice in the US and abroad. In 2007, he demonstrated the first e-voting virus and worked with the California Secretary of State office to help lead the first rigorous state-level review of e-voting security. He has demonstrated vulnerabilities in electronic voting machines and in Internet voting systems, which included breaking into the Washington DC testbed for Internet voting in 2010 in less than 24 hours. He led the first independent review of the India’s national e-voting system, which prompted the country to undertake major reforms, and in 2014 participated in a similar effort in Estonia.

Prof. Halderman has detected and demonstrated vulnerabilities in other systems used by the public, such as an early Sony DRM scheme that created security liabilities, and weaknesses in the security of airport scanners and municipal traffic light systems.

Prof. Halderman received his PhD in Computer Science from Princeton in 2009 and joined the faculty at Michigan the same year. He was selected for the 1938E Award by the College of Engineering in 2015 in recognition of his excellence in teaching and his scholarly integrity. He is the director of the Center for Computer Security and Society.

About the Sloan Research Fellowship

The Sloan Research Fellowships seek to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise.  These two-year fellowships are awarded yearly to 126 researchers in recognition of distinguished performance and a unique potential to make substantial contributions to their field.

Honors and Awards; J. Alex Halderman