Step by step, the University of Klagenfurt is steadily expanding its activities in the new research area “Humans in the Digital Age”. The appointment of Elisabeth Oswald (University of Bristol) represents an important milestone in this endeavour. As an applied cryptographer, Elisabeth Oswald works at the interface between mathematics and computer science. In her research, she focuses especially on the cryptographic aspects of cybersecurity.
Rendering theory useful in a practical setting is one of the central aims of Elisabeth Oswald’s work. “I want to make things work in real life”, she succinctly summarises her engineering-mathematical approach. Her research focuses on applied cryptography. Aided by statistical methods, she strives to detect and shut down data leaks in various applications (such as the smart phone, cash dispensing machines, car keys, etc.). These kinds of devices offer numerous information channels, which can be exploited in the course of an attack. “In the long term, the aim is to develop a form of cryptography that minimises or tolerates leaks”, Elisabeth Oswald explains.
Those who believe that fully secure systems already exist are mistaken, according to the mathematician: “There is not a single device, as far as I am aware, that is immune to attack.” Encryption technologies provide good services in many quarters, but ultimately, cryptography can only offer absolute security in theory. Often, tricks borrowed from the field of computer science are deployed in order to make systems less vulnerable in practice. “In addition, we need to address how best to test and evaluate cryptographic implementations”, Elisabeth Oswald goes on to say. She refers to an EU project (ERC Consolidator Grant) she is currently leading, which aims to achieve advances in this area.
Born in Wolfsberg, Elisabeth Oswald studied technical mathematics with a particular emphasis on information processing at Graz University of Technology. She completed her doctoral degree there in 2003. She has been working at the University of Bristol since 2006, and she recently held a professorship in applied cryptography there. In her view, the greatest advantage offered by the academic environment is the opportunity to work with young people: “It is a privilege to be allowed to accompany students on their path of knowledge acquisition and personal growth.”
Elisabeth Oswald transferred to the University of Klagenfurt in June 2019. The university will effect this appointment by means of opportunity hiring (direct appointments acc. to § 99a Universities Act). As such, Elisabeth Oswald is the first professor to be appointed to the newly established Digital Age Research Center (D!ARC). Rector Oliver Vitouch: “The aim of D!ARC, which was established on the 1st of January 2019 as an interfaculty centre, is to explore the technological, economic, legal, societal, individual, and cultural aspects of the digital revolution. To do this, we aim to attract and connect the best and brightest, from the budding scientist to the acclaimed professor. The digital transformation will affect each and every one of us. Here, in Klagenfurt, we provide our students with the requisite knowledge to actively participate in shaping that change”.