“People carry modern smart devices everywhere they go, use them much more frequently, and these devices have a plethora of sensors (such as microphones, GPS radios, and cameras). We trust them with all of this information implicitly on a daily basis,” says Prof. Ed Novak.
In order to better protect this data, Novak has researched and implemented alternative communication methods, "private" computation, and methods of sharing information in controlled and private ways. “I've even come up with attacks before the attackers!” Novak exclaims. “Doing this allows myself, and others in the research community, to come up with preemptive defenses against these attacks.”
The computer scientist finds the research particularly interesting because the needs of many parties need to be balanced. Large enterprises and service providers (such as Google and Facebook) have built a business around selling user data for precise, targeted advertising. While end-users may be against the idea, finding it unsettling, they have a high demand for services and features and a low tolerance for financial cost. In many cases, some "sensitive" information is necessary for the service to function.
“For example, the popular ride-sharing application "Uber" would be useless if the user refused to share their location,” says Novak. “Coming up with solutions that balance these different needs has been a fun and interesting challenge.”
The professor attended graduate school at William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia from 2010 until 2016, where he received his Ph.D. “I can say that the cultural difference here in Lancaster is significant. Things move a bit slower paced back in Williamsburg,” describes Novak. “I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, so I speak from experience when I say that Lancaster has a "midwestern" feel that reminds of home.”
In his spare time on campus Novak is involved with F&M’s Water Polo Club. Says Novak, “Although they've had a rough couple of years in terms of forming a sustainable foundation, I'm very enthusiastic about growing the team and building a new culture as a coach. We traveled to W&M to play them and two other teams, which was a fantastic time. I'm excited about the future of water polo here at F&M and I encourage new students to join the team every chance I can get!”
He also adds, “F&M’s Computer Science program has launched as a new department. This is a wonderful result that has occurred thanks to the hard work of my colleagues over the past several years. I'm very excited about being a part of the department and the growth that we will surely continue to have."