Stanford: Wide Gate, Steep Steps

Each of the world’s best universities can boast of some unique feature, which makes it exclusive. Every such university carries its own signature, its own special aura, its own principles and traditions.

Stanford University ranks No 4 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and its feature is IT. Stanford graduates founded many legendary companies, e.g. Google, Hewlett-Packard, PayPal, Nvidia, Cisco Systems, Electronic Arts, Sun Microsystems, Yahoo! and many other flagship companies.

The university is located in Palo Alto, unofficial capital of the Silicon Valley. It is a great place for self-development. Here you can get a probation in a prestigious company, converse with the pillars of IT-industry, gather a start-up team and find investors. Here you can easily realize projects that would be impossible in many other places.

We can say, not in a shy way, that Stanford University has a great history of achievements. And at the moment the University is not going to hit the lay. They are performing research now, which would give birth to the second Google. In the Future. But they are working on them now.

Stanford Bitcoin Group

IT frontier now is cryptocurrencies. That is the reason for Stanford to pay special attention to them. Cryptocurrencies are unquestionable interdisciplinary project uniting mathematics, cryptography, programming and economics. Stanford Bitcoin Group are doing both theoretic studies and applied studies, e.g. developing software for working with Bitcoin, as well. This team discloses only a small part of their work. We can judge their classified projects only due to rare data leaks.

Educational project TryBTC. This Internet service explains in layman’s terms why the wallet is required, what is wallet’s address, what are Blockchain’s functions and many other things, using demonstrative examples and interactive communication.

This Internet service sends you some Bitcoins and allows for experimenting with them. For example, you can donate money for charity or share them with friends. Communication with this service is very interesting and colorful. Although I can work with Bitcoins, I donated part of my money to Electronic Frontier Foundation and gave my friends the rest with great pleasure.

Cryptonote. Stanford Bitcoin Group not only works on Bitcoin’s infrastructure, but develops their own technologies for creating cryptocurrencies. Cryptonote is one of them. This project is classified, so SBG does not openly associate it with them. We have the information only due to leaks.

This project team is developing technology fit to use in creating their own cryptocurrency. Cryptonote technology is substantially different from Bitcoin technology. Cryptonote creators prioritized making a completely anonymous system, which would not allow for tracking transaction source nor target via Blockchain. The Team has successfully complete their task; there are a few cryptocurrencies based on Cryptonote operating now.

Blockscore service helps to fight fakers by analyzing personal data available in the open sources.

For instance, this service allows for revealing a faker who stole data from the real user. The service can ask a question requiring an answer, which might be hard to find in the open sources, but would be known to the real user. For example, it can ask: ‘What was the color of the car you bought in 2007?’ A faker would be hard pressed to find the data, but the real user would have no troubles remembering the color of the car he or she bought.

Moreover, the Blockscore service provides ability to evaluate the new user’s reliability. This service can find any past criminal records or even being on the wanted list at the moment. This data is extremely valuable, as doing business with such unreliable clients is very risky.

Applied Crypto Group

The team of Applied Crypto Group deals with network and computer security issues, as well as private data protection, and cryptosystems building. This team’s work is partially classified, but there are a few of their projects available at free access. For instance, ACG is working on user’s location protection. A person can use the services, which would help him or her to orient in the world with relation to said person’s location, but no one else would know that location. Another ACG research is related to the gyroscopes utilized in mobile devices. These gyroscopes are so sensitive that they can recognize human speech. It is hard for third-party programs to gain access to microphone, but it is relatively easier to gain access to gyroscope. That means that gyroscope can be used for tapping. There are also other projects by ACG.

PwdHash. A very elegant solution for login+password bonds leakage from vulnerable sites. People often use similar logins and passwords for creating accounts on different websites, e.g. e-mail, online shops, etc… If a faker manages to hack a vulnerable site data base, he or she would be able to gain access to many other accounts using login+password.

In order to solve this issue ACG developed an extension for browsers, which uses your password and the site address. This extension calculates these data hash and uses it as a password for the site. If a faker hacks the site, he or she would not get your precious password, but only your password’s and site address’ hash. Using this data a faker would not be able to recover your password.

IBE email system. In order to send data via insecure channel asymmetric encryption is used. This method means that letter’s receiver (usually called ‘Bob’) has two keys: public and private. Bob sends his public key to letter’s sender (Alice). We presume that Bob is able to send his public key to Alice so that no one can intercept it. For example, when meeting in person.

Alice encrypts her message using Bob’s public key and sends it. Bob gets encrypted message and decrypts it using his private key. No one can decrypt the message except Bob.

It is a good scheme, but it means that Bob has private and public keys already, and that Alice know Bob’s public key.

Identity Base Encryption (IBE) allows Alice to send encrypted message to Bob even if he does not have these keys. Alice can use Bob’s e-mail as a public key. When Bob gets encrypted message, he communicates with the Private Key Generator (PKG) service, where he gets a private key to decipher the message.

Applied Crypto Group developed a system, which allows for sending a message encrypted the way that it would be possible to decrypt it only at certain time, e.g. on Halloween, or after 2106. It can be used in numerous ways.

Those are only a few work groups existing in Stanford. There are much more of them, and they cover not only cryptography and security, but many other fields as well.

It is quite hard to enter Stanford University, and not every student manages to do it on the first try. However, if you do get there, you will get one of the world’s best educations, you will be able to practice under the best IT-specialists in the world and work on solving the advanced problems.

No one can guarantee that you will graduate successfully, or that you will successfully solve the assigned problem, but one thing can be guaranteed for sure — it will be amusing!