Faculty Candidate Seminar

Provable Security for Cryptocurrencies and Emergent Distributed Systems

Andrew MillerPhD CandidateUniversity of Maryland

We have recently seen the rise of complex distributed systems with unconventional designs — the cloud, internet of things, peer-to-peer networks, and more. Our ability to precisely reason about the security of these systems has been outpaced by their rapid evolution.

Provable security is a framework for analyzing the security of cryptographic primitives and distributed algorithms, the components from which these systems are built. My research extends provable security to new settings where it is needed.

My focus in this talk will be on cryptocurrencies, decentralized peer-to-peer networks that provide alternatives to (i.e., disrupt!) traditional financial services and exemplify the challenges posed by emergent systems.
First, cryptocurrencies do not fit well within existing distributed systems models. I have therefore developed new models for this setting, enabling me to invent and rigorously validate novel constructions with improved security and efficiency.

Second, while cryptocurrencies have promise as a low-barrier-to-entry platform for diverse applications, these applications require sophisticated cryptography — and composing with cryptographic primitives is notoriously difficult and dangerous. My approach is to develop programming language designs that turn cryptographic primitives into safe building blocks for application developers to use.
Andrew Miller is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Maryland, and an Associate Director of the Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Contracts at Cornell. His research interests lie at the intersection of cryptography, programming languages, and distributed systems, and especially with a focus on cryptocurrencies and peer-to-peer networks. He is coadvised by Jonathan Katz, Elaine Shi, and Mike Hicks.

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