Information Trust Institute block of abstract images
Information Trust Institute block of abstract images

Alumnus received Early Career Award from MIT

Information Trust Institute alumnus Hamed Okhravi was recently awarded a 2014 Early Career Technical Achievement Award from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is a member of the technical staff in the Cyber Systems and Technology Group.

The award recognizes significant technical contributions by individuals under the age of 35 and Okhravi was honored in a ceremony on Feb. 27 at MIT.

From right: Dr. Robert Cunningham, leader of the Cyber Systems and Technology Group, Hamed Okhravi, and Dr. Eric Evans, Director of MIT Lincoln Laboratory
From right: Dr. Robert Cunningham, leader of the Cyber Systems and Technology Group, Hamed Okhravi, and Dr. Eric Evans, Director of MIT Lincoln Laboratory
Okhravi received his MS and Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006 and 2009, respectively. He worked closely with his advisor, ITI Director and Franklin W. Woeltge Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering David Nicol, as well as ECE Department Head William H. Sanders, focusing his research on secure, high-assurance systems.

“Hamed was everything you want a graduate student to be: a voracious reader, full of energy, a foundation of new ideas, eager to publish and able to write. We’re proud of him,” Nicol said.

Okhravi mentioned that his time at Illinois not only equipped him with knowledge in technical areas, but also how to think critically about research problems.

“This is crucial for conducting successful research,” Okhravi said. “Critical thinking skills and a scientific research mindset is not something that can be picked up quickly. It requires practice, training and working with people who have those skills. For that, I am really thankful and indebted to my advisor, Prof. Nicol.”

Since graduation in 2009, Okhravi joined MIT Lincoln Laboratory, a federally funded research and development center, as a research staff member where he has been conducting research projects and leading research teams with a goal of making the cyberspace secure and trustworthy.

Specifically, Okhravi was recognized for designing a critical road map and associated analytical tools for cyber resiliency analyses of moving target systems. According to the press release, his “technical leadership in developing and analyzing secure applications has been important to programs in the Cyber Security and Information Sciences Division.”

“Part of my research is studying and evaluating new paradigms for computer security,” Okhravi said. “This would require analyzing their potential strengths as well as their gaps and weaknesses. A few years ago, a new paradigm called ‘moving target defenses’ was introduced in the research community. The idea is to randomize the internals of a computer system to make it more resilient against cyber attacks. I conducted the research that established the taxonomy and built the foundation for designing and evaluating new moving target defenses.”

His general research interests are in cyber security, cyber trust, science of security, security metrics, and operating systems, with a current focus on ensuring that cyber defenses are built based on valid, fully vetted assumptions. The results of this research will be presented at the May 2015 IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy.

“If the underlying assumptions are invalid, the defenses themselves will fail when facing a resourceful attacker,” he said. “Some of our recent findings indicate that, information hiding, a common assumption in many new proposed defenses is not a sound basis for effective defenses.”

Looking forward, with computer security a growing problem in today’s world, Okhravi hopes to continue to build sound foundations to improve the security of modern systems.