Schreyer Scholar, IST student headed to premier computer security conference

Jeff Rice
April 02, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State security and risk analysis major and Schreyer Honors Scholar Alejandro Cuevas was a research assistant on a team at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) which had a paper accepted for one of the world’s top annual computer security conferences.

Cuevas was second author of “On Enforcing the Digital Immunity of a Large Humanitarian Organization,” which will be part of the 39th Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Symposium on Security and Privacy, held May 21-23 in San Francisco.

A Schreyer international travel grant helped get Cuevas to Switzerland, where College of Information Sciences and Technology enrichment funds helped support his research. He met Stevens Le Blond, a scientist at EPFL’s Decentralized and Distributed Systems Lab who led the project, and their paper examined the challenges large humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) face when it comes to computer security.

“It is not always easy to assess the magnitude of the problems that organizations like these can face,” Cuevas said. “Our hope is that this project can start conversations so that other research can be done and other organizations may benefit.”

The senior from Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, said he was merely looking to gain experience and find a project that would fit roughly within the time he would spend in Switzerland (mid-June to mid-August). The group originally aimed to have completed the paper by Sept. 1, but Cuevas wound up doing work on it after returning to State College and resuming classes.

After participating in various levels of the research process and coordinating with other researchers on various sections of the paper, Cuevas found more opportunities open for him and confidence that he had the experience to take them on.

“Since then, I’ve worked on two other papers,” Cuevas said. “I can write more easily. I can take ownership of sections. I know how to go about it.”

The IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy, established in 1980, has roughly a 10-13 percent acceptance rate. Cuevas will attend it and have the chance to discuss his work with some of the top researchers in his field.

“The chance to meet some people whose work you built your research upon, to me, seems really appealing,” he said.

The Schreyer Honors College promotes academic excellence with integrity, the building of a global perspective, and creation of opportunities for leadership and civic engagement. Schreyer Honors Scholars, including Gateway Scholars admitted after their first or second year of enrollment, total more than 1,900 students at University Park and 20 commonwealth campuses. They represent the top 2 percent of students at Penn State who excel academically and lead on campus.


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Last Updated April 04, 2018