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19 Mar 2010
By Craig Costello
Mar
19
2010

Fulbright Star Shines

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Thanks to the Australian Postgraduate Fulbright scholarship in Technology and Communication sponsored by Telstra, in July this year I will be studying at a top American institute, under the supervision of one of the very best mathematical cryptographers in the world.

To meet my future supervisors will be an honour in itself, but to be able to work with them is, at this stage of my academic career, a dream come true. Being someone who is so passionate about my studies, I just can’t wait to get over to the USA where I will be driving my research in new directions under the influence of such powerful mathematicians.

My time abroad will not only give a great boost to the depth and the outcomes of my research, but it will also strengthen my own mathematical knowledge and sophistication, and heighten my maturity as a researcher. The collaboration with world leaders in my field, both during and following my time as a Fulbright scholar, will continue to have a tremendous impact on my academic career long after I return to Australia. This type collaboration is paramount in the fast paced and ever evolving field of cryptography.

I am so excited about having the opportunity to be part of the elite academic culture that is offered in America. I will be based at the University of California, Irvine, and will also be visiting other leading institutes such as Stanford and MIT, some of the powerhouses in cryptography and digital security. I plan to bring back new knowledge and insight to Australia, and discover new results that will benefit all users of electronic communications who require security for their information. This includes the financial sector, commerce, national security organisations, and the increasing number of small business and domestic users as well.

About cryptography

Cryptography is the practice and study of hiding information, by encrypting and decrypting messages, which finds applications across all forms of digital communication. ATM cards, computer passwords, electronic commerce and mobile telecommunications all rely on cryptography for their security.

Without secure encryption techniques, users would be unable to safely communicate personal details (such as their bank account details) across the Internet, keeping their information secure from malicious forces.

In this modern, digital communication age, the security, authenticity and integrity of electronic messages is of paramount importance. In what is known as public-key cryptography, users can communicate securely between each other without having prior contact to set up digital encryption and decryption keys. The security of public-key cryptography rests squarely on the shoulders of “hard” mathematical problems, problems that couldn’t be solved by an attacker, even if they had all the computing power in the world. Thus, the importance of mathematicians in cryptography is ever increasing.Encryption is used, for example, when someone connects to an Internet bank account.

Before any of your information (such as bank account numbers) is sent to the bank over the internet, which is an openly visible insecure channel, the information needs to be scrambled and dispersed in such a way that a hacker who sees the information can’t decipher it. The best techniques to achieve this security involve complex mathematics, where the secret messages are buried beneath mathematical problems that are presumably impossible to solve, even with all the computing power in the world. Only the intended recipient, i.e. the bank, whose secret key is the solution to this hard mathematical problem, is able to decrypt the message.”

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4 Comments

  1. Mick Alford says:

    Wishing you all the best craig. Well done.

  2. Paul says:

    Sounds like an interesting career move mate! Just don’t get yourself arrested in the states for using too high level encryption =P Remember, anything 256bit of above they can’t hack (easily), so your not allowed to run it =P

  3. Robert Morsillo says:

    Congratulations Craig, how impressive is that! (Maths was my first love, but the rest is history as they say.)

    Seriously though, I have a relative, Prof Ales Drapal, at Charles University, Prague, Czech Republick, who is a mathematician and moved into researching and teaching cryptography. He is a lovely guy, we talk philosophy, theology, some mathematics, and family stuff from time to time when we get together.

    Just wondering, off chance, whether you would allow me to put him in touch with you and vice versa for, who knows, some serendipity?

    Once again, congratulations and kind regards.

  4. Sean Smith says:

    Hi Craig,

    Congratulations. I have a question. The cryptography relies on complex mathematic equations to conceal the core data. If so, isn’t it likely that somebody could “solve the puzzle”? Are there any other schools of thought on other ways to protect the integrity of data – such as source indicative identification or creation of alternate languages that are dynamic in their nature?
    My questions may bely my lack of knowledge on this subject but I am curious based on the fact that if someone can arrive at an equation as a means of hiding the data, someone/something might also discover the equation too.
    Cheers
    Sean

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