The German Center for Research and Innovation (GCRI) conducted a brief interview with Prof. Johannes Buchmann on January 16, 2017. He is a recipient of the German Research Foundation’s prestigious Leibniz Prize, which is awarded to exceptional scientists and academics for their outstanding research achievements. Prof. Buchmann, who teaches at the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany, is the founder and vice director of the Center for Advanced Security Research Darmstadt (CASED), which is now a part of CRISP – Center for Research in Security and Privacy. He has authored hundreds of research articles as well as a number of influential books, including Internet Privacy: Options for adequate realization and Introduction to Cryptography, which was translated into five languages.
We asked Prof. Buchmann about trends in cryptography and how consumers can protect themselves from falling victim to their stolen data. The interview has been edited for clarity.
Prof. Buchmann, a lot has happened since you spoke at the GCRI in New York in 2014 on „The Road Ahead for Cyber Security”.
Over the past year we have experienced cyber-attacks that are actively threatening our democracy. This year a number of elections will take place in Europe. We need input from science, politics, and industry on the issue of cyber security.
Can you identify trends in the evolution and improvement of cryptography?
When looking at the USA, one of the most important trends is public involvement. The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) asked the public to help create standardized cryptography software to protect against quantum computer attacks.
How would you explain to a layman how it has been possible to do online banking safely for years, yet we are still experiencing massive safety gaps when it comes to file-sharing?
Online banking has been using highly modern and secure cryptography, such as encryption, whereas file-sharing lacks this feature. This makes it vulnerable and creates concerns for privacy.
How can end-users be made aware of the importance of data security and privacy?
From a German perspective, I would say that a lot of end users are already aware of the risks. There are lots of good sites that offer information about safety and protection on the internet. One example is the website BSI für Bürger (which stands for the “Federal Office for Information Security for Citizens”) where German citizens can get information on everything related to IT security. We strongly recommend that everyone use it and to act in a responsible and sensible way when using the internet.