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Holman honored with Ford Fellowship

04-21-2022

Blake Holman, a PhD student at the Department of Computer Science was honored with a prestigious Ford Fellowship from the National Academy of Sciences for the quality and potential impact of his security research. Blake Holman, a PhD student at the Department of Computer Science was honored with a prestigious Ford Fellowship from the National Academy of Sciences for the quality and potential impact of his security research. 

 

User authentication is a critical cybersecurity measure with passwords being one of the most common methods of authentication. However, passwords can be one of the weakest links in cybersecurity. Most user accounts have been affected by password breaches, as they number in the billions. 

Attackers with specialized hardware can guess these passwords orders of magnitude faster than standard hardware. Research in this space holds potential to improve outcomes of offline attacks.


Received the prestigious Ford Fellowship

Blake Holman, a PhD student at the Department of Computer Science was honored with a prestigious Ford Fellowship from the National Academy of Sciences for the quality and potential impact of his security research. Holman’s work is in cryptography, specifically password storage and memory-hard functions. His advisor is Jeremiah Blocki, assistant professor of computer science.

 

Cryptography research

“Picking a strong password doesn’t mean your data is protected unconditionally,” said Holman. He added, “Billions of user accounts have been affected by password data breaches. Attackers can be incentivized and often equipped to find these passwords if they were improperly secured.”

Holman’s work aims to minimize this advantage using memory-hard functions, making these attacks prohibitively expensive while minimally impacting the speed of user authentication.

Holman joined the graduate program in 2020, his favorite accomplishment at Purdue was when he completed a project on data-dependent memory hard functions. This research promises strong deterrence against brute-force attackers with advantageous hardware. 

Choosing Purdue

“I chose Purdue because of the department’s great research groups in cryptography and theoretical computer science,” said Holman. He added, “The faculty and my fellow students have been very kind and welcoming, I’m happy to be here.”

The Department of Computer Science at Purdue is ranked ninth according to US News & World Reports. The research area of Information Security and Assurance is one of the largest of the 11 research areas in the department.


About Ford Fellowships

The Ford Fellowships seek to increase the diversity of the nation's college and university faculties and are awarded to graduate students who are planning a career in teaching and research at the college or university level. The fellowship funds stipends and allowances for predoctoral, dissertation, and postdoctoral research. 

With a typical overall success rate of only 4-5%, the Ford fellowships are highly competitive.

One of America’s most prestigious and successful fellowship initiatives, the programs — which have been administered by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine since 1979 — now have more than 3,500 alumni. 



About the Department of Computer Science at Purdue University

Founded in 1962, the Department of Computer Science was created to be an innovative base of knowledge in the emerging field of computing as the first degree-awarding program in the United States. The department continues to advance the computer science industry through research. US News & Reports ranks Purdue CS #20 and #18 overall in graduate and undergraduate programs respectively, ninth in both software engineering and cybersecurity, 13th in programming languages, 17th in computing systems, 22nd in theory, and 24th in artificial intelligence. Graduates of the program are able to solve complex and challenging problems in many fields. Our consistent success in an ever-changing landscape is reflected in the record undergraduate enrollment, increased faculty hiring, innovative research projects, and the creation of new academic programs. The increasing centrality of computer science in academic disciplines and society, and new research activities - centered around data science, artificial intelligence, programming languages, theoretical computer science, machine learning, and cybersecurity - are the future focus of the department. cs.purdue.edu

 

Writer: Emily Kinsell, emily@purdue.edu

Source: Blake Holman, blake@purdue.edu

Last Updated: Apr 21, 2022 2:35 PM

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