It is not often that one finds concrete problems capable of inspiring really advanced research. Computing and communications, having become commodities which societies largely depend on, created such an opportunity in what concerns their security and dependability. Yet, since problems appear so real, one can always follow the temptation of identifying the immediate problems and look for immediate solutions.
This talk is about daring to ask questions about daring subjects in distributed systems, fault tolerance and security, and on how this impacted the research of a group over the past few years. The talk will start by giving a notion of the security and dependability risks impending on modern societies and their ICT systems, in crucial areas as telco and cloud, power grid and cyber-physical systems in general, or health and genomics data. Then it presents the results of several research projects which have asked some of those daring questions, e.g. about why not: letting your attackers live amongst you; self-healing computers to make them work forever; recovering information despite having lost most of it; putting sensitive information in clouds without trusting the providers; or publishing genomics information whilst preserving privacy. The last part of the talk will discuss how proposing to tackle problems of real substance and impact, ended-up inspiring new theoretical models and predicates for distributed systems, impossibility results and algorithmic lower bounds. What more can you ask?
In conclusion: Solving real problems does not necessarily prevent you from doing really advanced research, if instead of merely «seeing things and saying 'Why?'», you ask the right questions and are capable of «dreaming things that never were, and say, "Why not?"» Quoting George Bernard Shaw, "Back to Methuselah" (1921)
Paulo Veríssimo is a Professor of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, U. of Lisbon Faculty of Sciences (FCUL-http://www.di.fc.ul.pt/~pjv), adjunct Professor of the ECE Dept., Carnegie Mellon University, member elect of the Board of the U. of Lisbon and of the Scientific Council of the FCUL, and Director of LaSIGE (http://lasige.di.fc.ul.pt). He is currently Chair of the IFIP WG 10.4 on Dependable Computing and Fault-Tolerance and vice-Chair of the Steering Committee of the IEEE/IFIP DSN conference. PJV is Fellow of the IEEE and of the ACM. He is associate editor of the Elsevier Int’l Journal on Critical Infrastructure Protection. Veríssimo leads the Navigators group of LaSIGE, and is currently interested in distributed architectures, middleware and algorithms for: adaptability and safety of real-time networked embedded systems; and resilience of secure and dependable large-scale systems. He is author of over 170 peer-refereed publications and co-author of 5 books.
Luís Eduardo Teixeira Rodrigues