Report: NordSec 2015

Last week, I attended the Nordic Conference on Secure IT Systems (NordSec 2015). Although it’s experienced some internationalization, NordSec is traditionally a local conference — and with this year being the 20th anniversary, it has a rich history.

On average, I attend NordSec every other year. In fact, my first academic publication was at NordSec 2006 when I was still an MSc student at TKK/HUT (Now Aalto University). The venue this year was KTH Royal Institute of Technology, in Stockholm, Sweden. Somehow this was my first visit to KTH — it is a lovely and conveniently-located campus.

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Venerable Gene Spafford (Purdue University, USA) gave a high-level keynote on the evolution of cyber security and lessons learned (or perhaps not learned, even forgotten). Gene used the “turtles all the way down” anecdote to describe trust, and it kind of hit home with me. I’d furthermore say it’s worse, in the sense that it’s turtles all the way down and all around — trust relationships these days on e.g. a mobile phone are so incredibly complex due to the number of stakeholders.

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Asokan (Aalto University, Finland) gave a keynote with different case studies on technology transfer. If you don’t know what that means, when you do research — whether it be in academia or industry — at some point you have to transfer that to an engineering group that will make it into a real product. Asokan is a world-class scientist with plenty of technology transfer experience. I reckon my favorite topic he discussed is on-board credentials — a feature arguably just too far ahead of its time.

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My own selfish reasons to attend NordSec this year were presenting two publications:

  • MJOS and I did some work on improving our CAESAR candidate WHIRLBOB. Very nice implementation efficiency and side-channel security results — in particular for SIMD architectures.
  • I did some work on improving the performance of binary elliptic curves in OpenSSL. Up to a 6-factor speed improvement for some curves.

Although NordSec these days is more geared towards students, I really think it’s a useful conference for any academic in Finland because Finland is … well … Nordic. Keeping those Nordic-local collaboration channels open is important. A big thanks to Sonja Buchegger (KTH, Sweden) for the wonderful local arrangements ūüôā Check out the slides of the other talks, and the proceedings!

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