Why attend USENIX Enigma?

[Cross-posted from the Google Research Blog]

Last August, we announced USENIX Enigma, a new conference intended to shine a light on great, thought-provoking research in security, privacy, and electronic crime. With Enigma beginning in just a few short weeks, I wanted to share a couple of the reasons I’m personally excited about this new conference.

Enigma aims to bridge the divide that exists between experts working in academia, industry, and public service, explicitly bringing researchers from different sectors together to share their work. Our speakers include those spearheading the defense of digital rights (Electronic Frontier Foundation, Access Now), practitioners at a number of well known industry leaders (Akamai, Blackberry, Facebook, LinkedIn, Netflix, Twitter), and researchers from multiple universities in the U.S. and abroad. With the diverse session topics and organizations represented, I expect interesting—and perhaps spirited—coffee break and lunchtime discussions among the equally diverse list of conference attendees.

Of course, I’m very proud to have some of my Google colleagues speaking at Enigma:
  • Adrienne Porter Felt will talk about blending research and engineering to solve usable security problems. You’ll hear how Chrome’s usable security team runs user studies and experiments to motivate engineering and design decisions. Adrienne will share the challenges they’ve faced when trying to adapt existing usable security research to practice, and give insight into how they’ve achieved successes.
  • Ben Hawkes will be speaking about Project Zero, a security research team dedicated to the mission of, “making 0day hard.” Ben will talk about why Project Zero exists, and some of the recent trends and technologies that make vulnerability discovery and exploitation fundamentally harder.
  • Elie Bursztein will go through key lessons the Gmail team learned over the past 11 years while protecting users from spam, phishing, malware, and web attacks. Illustrated with concrete numbers and examples from one of the largest email systems on the planet, attendees will gain insight into specific techniques and approaches useful in fighting abuse and securing their online services.
In addition to raw content, my Program Co-Chair, David Brumley, and I have prioritized talk quality. Researchers dedicate months or years of their time to thinking about a problem and conducting the technical work of research, but a common criticism of technical conferences is that the actual presentation of that research seems like an afterthought. Rather than be a regurgitation of a research paper in slide format, a presentation is an opportunity for a researcher to explain the context and impact of their work in their own voice; a chance to inspire the audience to want to learn more or dig deeper. Taking inspiration from the TED conference, Enigma will have shorter presentations, and the program committee has worked with each speaker to help them craft the best version of their talk. 

Hope to see some of you at USENIX Enigma later this month!