Former Google Executive Susan Landau to Join WPI as Professor of Cybersecurity Policy

Originally printed in WPI News

By WPI News

WPI announced today that Susan Landau, PhD, former senior staff privacy analyst at Google and a widely respected authority on cybersecurity, privacy, and public policy, will join the WPI faculty as a professor of cybersecurity policy. Landau’s position, which includes a joint appointment in the departments of Social Science and Policy Studies andComputer Science, is effective July 1.

“We are very excited to welcome Susan Landau to WPI,” said Karen Kashmanian Oates, Peterson Family Dean of Arts and Sciences. “She is an outstanding scholar and highly regarded expert on cybersecurity and privacy, issues at the forefront of ongoing national dialogs on the future of the Internet, government surveillance, and national security. She will bring considerable expertise and renown to our new Cybersecurity Program and will serve as a wonderful role model for women students of today and tomorrow.”

“Cybersecurity policy is really important, but because it falls between law, policy, and computer science, many academic institutions are not sure what to do about it,” Landau said. “As far as I know, WPI is the first educational institution to create a tenure-track position in this area. This tells me loads of positive things about the commitment of WPI to cybersecurity and to interdisciplinary work, and I’m delighted to be joining the university.”

In recent years, Landau’s focus has been the security risks of embedding surveillance in communications infrastructures, and she has briefed members of the Unites States and European governments and participated in several industry reports on the issue. She has also had the opportunity to address this and other privacy and cybersecurity concerns as a member of the National Research Council Computer Science and Telecommunications Board and the advisory committee for the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering. She previously served on the Center for Strategic and International Studies Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency. The WPI appointment will be a return to academia for Landau, who has held faculty positions at Wesleyan University and the University of Massachusetts Amherst and visiting faculty posts at Cornell, Harvard, and Yale Universities and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, Calif.

Susan Landau

Landau is a frequent contributor to national conversations about the impact of modern technology and government policies on personal privacy and Internet security. She has written about such topics as the Edward Snowden revelations, the NSA’s practice of collecting massive volumes of information on domestic telephone conversations and social media posts, and the growing quantity of personal information being held in corporate and government computers in the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the Christian Science Monitor, Scientific American, the Huffington Post, and numerous other publications. She has also appeared frequently on National Public Radio.

She is the author of Surveillance or Security: The Risks Posed by New Wiretapping Technologies (MIT Press), which won the 2012 Surveillance Studies Book Prize from the Surveillance Studies Network. With Whitfield Diffie, the inventor of public-key cryptography, she wrote Privacy on the Line: The Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption (MIT Press 1998; revised in 2007), which received the 1998 Donald McGannon Communication Policy Research Award and the 1999 IEEE-USA Award for Distinguished Literary Contributions Furthering Public Understanding of the Profession. She is also the primary author of the 1994 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) report Codes, Keys, and Conflicts: Issues in US Crypto Policy.

In addition to her scholarship and public outreach on cybersecurity, Landau has been active as an advocate for women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. She launched researcHers, a mailing list for women computer science researchers in academia, industry, and government. She serves on the executive committee of the Association of Computing Machinery’s Council on Women in Computing (ACM-W) and co-created ACM-W’s Athena Lectureship to recognize outstanding researchers. She co-chaired the MIT Celebration of Women in Math in 2008 and was a member of the executive committee of the Computing Research Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research.

For her work on behalf of women researchers and her involvement in public policy on wiretapping and encryption, she received a Woman of Vision Social Impact Award from the Anita Borg Institute in 2008. In 2010-11, she was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, where she explored security and privacy and policy issues surrounding government computer systems. In 2012 she was a Guggenheim Fellow and a visiting scholar in the Department of Computer Science at Harvard University.

Landau graduated from the Bronx High School of Science, where in 1972 she was a finalist in the national Westinghouse Science Talent Search. For her project, she used number theory to try to determine what characteristics an odd perfect number might have (all known perfect numbers are even, but odd perfect numbers are theoretically possible). She earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Princeton University and went on to earn an MS at Cornell University and a PhD in computer science at MIT. From 1983 to 1991, she was an assistant professor of computer science at Wesleyan University; during that period she also completed a postdoctoral appointment at Yale and held visiting faculty positions at Yale and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute in Berkeley, Calif. Her research at that time focused on algebraic algorithms, and she developed a number of polynomial-time algorithms that have applications in symbolic computation, cryptography, and computational geometry.

She was a research associate professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst before joining Sun Microsystems as senior staff engineer in 1999, becoming a distinguished engineer in 2005. At Sun, she worked with chief technology officer Greg Papadopoulos to establish the company’s principle’s on digital rights management (DRM). Sun’s DRM project, DReaM, was the only DRM to provide support for fair use. She also worked on privacy and security aspects of federated identity management for the Liberty Alliance, an organization of companies, universities, and governments formed in September 2001 to establish standards, guidelines, and best practices for identity management in computer systems.

Landau is a fellow of ACM and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Original Article