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Now Available: Innovators Under 35 2013 See The 2013 List »

Courtesy Brown University

Anna Lysyanskaya, 31

Securing online privacy

Brown University

Problem: People want to use the Internet without having their habits documented or their personal data stolen. But they need to prove they're authorized to access bank accounts or subscription sites, processes that usually involve revealing their identities.


Solution: Anna Lysyanskaya, an assistant professor of computer science, has developed a practical way for people to securely log in to websites without providing any identifying information. Her approach relies on "zero-knowledge proofs." Say you want to browse a newspaper's archives in total privacy. With zero-­knowledge proofs, you subscribe using a pseudo­nym and receive digitally signed credentials. When you access the paper's site, your computer sends encrypted versions of the pseudonym and credentials. The archive can't decrypt this information; instead, it tests it for characteristics that valid data must have. (A certain field has to contain a specific number of digits, for example.) If the credentials are fake, some attribute will be wrong, and the site will be able to tell.


Zero-knowledge proofs have been around for a while, but they've required too much computing power to be practical. Collaborating with Jan ­Camenisch of the IBM Zürich Research Laboratory, Lysyanskaya developed algorithms that make both generating and testing credentials much more efficient. IBM is incorporating these algorithms into its Idemix anonymous-credential systems.


--Neil Savage

2007 TR35 Winners

Sanjit Biswas

Cheap, easy Internet access

Josh Bongard

Adaptive robots

Garrett Camp

Discovering more of the Web

Mung Chiang

Optimizing networks

Tadayoshi Kohno

Securing systems cryptographically

Tariq Krim

Building a personal, dynamic Web page

Ivan Krstic´

Making antivirus software obsolete

Jeff LaPorte

Internet-based calling from mobile phones

Karen Liu

Bringing body language to computer-animated characters

Anna Lysyanskaya

Securing online privacy

Tapan Parikh

Simple, powerful mobile tools for developing economies

Babak Parviz

Self-assembling micromachines

Partha Ranganathan

Power-aware computing systems

Kevin Rose

Online social bookmarking

Marc Sciamanna

Controlling chaos in telecom lasers

Desney Tan

Teaching computers to read minds

Luis von Ahn

Using “captchas” to digitize books

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