‘Lax Information Security Could Prove Dangerous’

Published: 07th January 2015 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th January 2015 06:00 AM   |  A+A-

BENGALURU: Possessing a secure cryptography and information security set-up is imperative for the security of a country or organisation, Turing Award winner Prof Silvio Micali said on Tuesday. 

Prof Micali received the Turing Award, considered the Nobel Prize equivalent in computing, in 2012 for his contributions in the field of cryptography.

Speaking to Express at the 10th edition of the annual Prof IG Sarma Memorial Lecture, Micali said, “Cryptography and information security play crucial and pivotal roles in determining security. These days, transactions are more e-based. Hence, information can be easily manipulated ...”

The event was organised by the Infosys Science Foundation and the Indian Institute of Science on the latter’s premises in the city.

On how information security is relevant in the current environment where terror threats are rampant, Micali said more the sophistication, more is the damage.

“These days, one need not use a bomb to cause damage. One could just hack into a country’s server and steal tonnes of sensitive information. It will be a bloodless attack and the damage will be far worse. Even if one does not steal data, but rather destroys it, it will be be a huge setback to a nation. Military organisations must ensure that their information is encrypted and protected. However, there is no mathematical certainty that encrypted data cannot be recreated,” he said.

Micali also emphasised on the process of decrypting information. He said though one can continuously encrypt information, the means to decrypt it must also be possessed.

“There is no point otherwise (in encrypting). If you can’t understand what you have encrypted, the whole process of information security is defeated. It is necessary that the decryption key is strongly guarded, because if it falls into the wrong hands, everything can go wrong. Hence, it is evident that encryption and decryption of data go hand in hand,” Micali added.

When asked about the Aadhaar card system in the country, and how the government has stored personal information of lakhs of people, which demands additional security measures, Micali said the government will have to clearly define their requirements and priorities.

“There are several tools available, which can be customised to suit a country’s needs. In my experience, almost all countries rely on a primitive set-up in terms of information security. This is an integral aspect and needs introspection,” he said.

When asked about what he has in mind for the future, Micali said he plans to conduct research on the functioning of the human brain using computer technology.

“I will take the help of biologists and neurobiologists. I believe that using computer science for this purpose, one can get a whole new insight into the functioning of a brain. After I received the award (Turing Award), I have been propelled to take scientific risk, which is essential for research. Young scientists must work on problems that they love, instead of those assigned to them. He/she must also be passionate about their work,” he added.


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