The World of Computer Science

Aug. 9, 2013

UA computer scientist Christian Collberg recently shared his experience coming into the field in an interview with Gary McGraw of Cigital, Inc. a global consulting firm specializing in software security.

Christian Collberg, a UA computer science professor, has lived in Sweden, New Zealand, China and the U.S. He authored "Surreptitious Software: Obfuscation, Watermarking, and Tamperproofing for Software Protection," and, with his colleagues, runs a software security summer school that is held in China, Europe and the U.S. in alternating years. (Photo credit: Andrew Collberg)

In the show's 88th episode of the Silver Bullet Security Podcast, Collberg also discusses the world of software security today with a focus on government and private domains. Regarding software security, there remains challenges associated with improving software protection.

"The problem that much of the good research going on in this area is that it is going on in industry, and they are really not publishing," said Collberg, a UA computer science professor.

Collberg noted that "security by obscurity" has a bad reputation, though there are some benefits in maintaining the practice, such as keeping a secret for the benefit of a profit or tactical reasons. Regardless, one key technology is in tamperproofing, an area Collberg has focused on in his research.

At the UA, Collberg teaches students about virtual security, first teaching them in the way that a hacker would think before teaching them how to properly code.

"One of the things I teach my students, and it's always on the final exam, is to draw this attack tree. I'll paint up a scenario for them to find all the possible ways to reach a certain attack goal."

Collberg said such practices help students to better understand security design.

"I am very lucky to be at a university where I have some very excellent colleagues and I like the academic freedom that we have here, which is a little bit different than other countries," Collberg said. The fact that i can come here every day to do exactly what I want is a great privilege."

Listen to the full podcast online.