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Distinguished Lecture | Women in Computing

Does Wiretapping Make US More Secure? What a Computer Scientist Has to Add to the National Conversation

Susan LandauSenior Staff Privacy AnalystGoogle
Stamps Auditorium, Walgreen Drama CenterMap

Abstract – What are the security risks in building wiretapping capabilities into a communications network such as the Internet? Well before Snowden and the NSA revelations made electronic surveillance a national conversation, wiretapping was on Congress’s agenda — but no one was discussing the risks arising from an architected security breach (which is what a wiretap is). That changed in 2006 when a small group of computer scientists presented the risks of extending the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act to the Internet. The bill did not pass.

I will discuss the security risks inherent in wiretapping Internet communications, and the larger question of how a computer scientist — working as a scientist — can have an impact on national policy.

Biography – Susan Landau is the author of Surveillance or Security? The Risks Posed by New Wiretapping Technologies (MIT Press, 2011), and co-author, with Whitfield Diffie, of Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption (MIT Press, 1998, rev. ed. 2007). She has written numerous computer science and public policy papers and op-eds on cybersecurity and encryption policy. In 2011, Landau testified in Congress on the security risks of wiretapping and in 2009 she testified on cybersecurity activities at NIST’s Information Technology Laboratory. Landau was previously a Distinguished Engineer at Sun Microsystems, where she worked in cybersecurity, privacy, and public policy. Landau was a faculty member at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and at Wesleyan University. She has held visiting positions at Harvard, Cornell, and Yale, and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute. Landau is currently a senior staff privacy analyst at Google.

Landau serves on the Computer Science Telecommunications Board of the National Research Council, as well as on the editorial boards of IEEE Security and Privacy and Communications of the ACM. A 2012 Guggenheim fellow, Landau was a 2010-2011 fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, the recipient of the 2008 Women of Vision Social Impact Award, Landau is also a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Association for Computing Machinery. She received her BA from Princeton, her MS from Cornell, and her PhD from MIT.

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