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Economics

Launch of the Research Program in Information Security and Privacy

Pr. Bryan Ford

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and AXA announce the creation of a Research Program in Information Security and Privacy.

Bryan Ford, a world-renowned expert in information security, has been named an Associate Professor at EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland thanks to the support of the AXA Research Fund.Through a holistic approach where availability, integrity and privacy of data are inseparable security properties, Prof. Ford’s research aims at developing a framework for privacy-preserving “big data”. He will also explore cloud computing emerging risks, aiming for better data protection in a world where cloud computing may become the dominant paradigm. The AXA Research Fund, AXA’s scientific philanthropic initiative dedicated to support fundamental research on risks engaged 1.5 M euros to support this 12 years-project with Prof. Ford at EPFL.

The increase of data circulating on the internet never ceases to grow. The information ranges from trade secrets to personal data. We want the data to be available at all times but safe from corruption, unavailability, and the risk of falling into just anyone's hands. The AXA Research Fund has granted a research program at EPFL in the search for solutions to these problems. AXA is supporting the work of Bryan Ford, who recently joined the faculty at EPFL after starting his career especially at Yale University (USA). Ford, who was born in 1973, is an up-and-coming researcher and internationally recognized specialist in data security and privacy protection.

Ford is working on solutions that bridge the gap between data security and availability, while protecting users’ privacy and corporate confidentiality. According to Ford, “the goal is within reach thanks to recent advances in the areas of cryptography, verifiable computing and homomorphic encryption.”

"There is actually no necessary tradeoff between security, availability and privacy", explains Ford. "We do have the required knowledge and technologies. What we need is further development as well as incentives."

This field of research is of growing importance for companies. In 2015 the global information security market was worth more than 75 billion dollars, and the spread of cloud solutions in particular suggests that this market will show strong growth in future years.

At a time when demand is accelerating and solutions are quickly rolled out, technology transfer from research institutes to business and government must keep pace. "The stakes are high both for the economy, for society and for individual citizens,” said Daniele Tonella AXA Tech CEO and Sponsor of this research program. “The future of companies, individual privacy, civil liberties and questions of data security are all in the balance. We’re very proud and excited to support Bryan Ford, who will bring his leadership on this research field to one of the most dynamic European institutions in basic and engineering sciences."

Ford has worked in three key areas of research: decentralized and distributed systems, security/privacy, and anonymous communication. He will continue his work at EPFL with the support of the AXA Research Fund.

Currently, AXA’s financial commitment to Swiss universities amounts to EUR 6.3 million. In addition to the EPFL professorship, this contribution is used to support 18 other life sciences, socio-economic and environmental projects. Antimo Perretta, CEO of AXA Winterthur, adds: "We are convinced that a better knowledge and understanding of the risks facing societies is crucial and that it is our responsibility to ensure the protection of the general public. That is why we are proud to support 18 research projects in Switzerland“.