Eddie Kohler, 33
A better operating system
University of California, Los Angeles
Operating systems are the software foundation for all computers, from laptops to servers--but most were designed decades ago, without Internet security in mind. Small flaws in the operating system or software on, say, a bank’s server could compromise millions of dollars’ worth of sensitive data.
To make such information more secure, computer scientist Eddie Kohler and his team designed Asbestos, an operating system that keeps private data from falling into the wrong hands even when other software on a computer has failed. Asbestos keeps personal data secure by "tagging" it with information about which programs or users can access it.
Usually, this sort of tagging requires a large amount of memory, but Kohler has structured the tag data to use minimal system resources. Initial tests have been promising, and Kohler hopes that within a few years, Asbestos will be an alternative to server operating systems such as Linux and Windows.