Alina Oprea, 34
Guaranteeing cloud security
PROBLEM: Cloud computing offers numerous advantages to businesses and individuals by enabling them to store data and run websites on remote computers rather than ones they own. But many hesitate to use the technology for fear of what might happen if a cloud provider's systems aren't secured properly or break down.
SOLUTION: Software created by Alina Oprea, a researcher at RSA Laboratories in Cambridge, Massachusetts, can guarantee users that their data hasn't been tampered with and won't become inaccessible. For her 2007 PhD thesis, she developed a digital fingerprint capable of quickly verifying that data stored in the cloud hasn't been maliciously altered or accidentally corrupted. Then, at RSA, Oprea helped create HAIL, a technology that lets users divide data among multiple cloud providers in such a way that if one provider goes offline, the missing information can be reconstructed from the data stored by the others.
Next she helped lead the development of HomeAlone, which guards against an insidious threat in cloud computing: when users buy remote computing power, they often share server space with other customers, offering an opportunity for potential hackers. Many cloud providers let customers pay extra for their own private servers to avoid this risk. HomeAlone lets customers who choose that option verify that the data is indeed isolated and no one is snooping on their space in the cloud. —Stephen Cass