Mason welcomes new Eminent Scholar in Cybersecurity

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Giuseppe Ateniese is the Eminent Scholar for Cybersecurity. Courtesy photo

It’s not surprising that George Mason University’s prominence in the field of cybersecurity attracted Giuseppe Ateniese to the College of Engineering and Computing. Mason has a long history of active teaching and research in cybersecurity. In the 2022 U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges List Mason ranked #28 nationally and #15 for public universities. Ateniese, who was recently hired as an Eminent Scholar in Cybersecurity, wants to take Mason to the next level.

“Mason was always on my radar,” says Ateniese. “So once this opportunity as an eminent scholar popped up, I was very interested. Mason is providing me with strong support to build a top-notch research group.”

Ateniese comes to Mason from Stevens Institute of Technology, where he was chair of the computer science department. He taught at Sapienza-University of Rome, served as assistant and associate professor at Johns Hopkins University, and was one of the JHU Information Security Institute founders. His experience in the corporate sector included a stint as a researcher at IBM’s Zurich research lab and as a scientist at the Information Sciences Institute of the University of Southern California. He also briefly worked as a visiting professor at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington.

In addition to teaching cybersecurity classes, Ateniese expects to lead transformative growth in Mason’s cybersecurity research portfolio and encourage and foster new and existing collaborations with the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative and its partners as well as other academic, industrial, and governmental institutions in the greater Washington, D.C. area.

Ateniese says he would like to serve as a bridge between different units. “This is something I actually learned as department chair,” he says. “When I was able to connect faculty within my department to different units, sometimes I was able to make things happen.” He sees a large part of his role as finding collaborators. “I really want to go after bringing cybersecurity to the next level and figure out what is needed at Mason to move in that direction,” he says.

Ateniese’s research focuses on cloud security and machine learning applied to security and intelligence issues. He is also investigating new security applications for decentralized computing based on blockchain/bitcoin technology.

“Society is embracing artificial intelligence, and I’m concerned that we are doing this in a way that is probably too fast,” he says. “We have to consider also security and privacy implications of this technology. My goal is to build a safe and private artificial intelligence framework so that we can ensure that machine learning models are doing what they’re supposed to do.”

He is also investigating new security applications for decentralized computing based on blockchain/bitcoin technology. “Everyone is talking about bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies,” he says. “But that’s probably nothing compared to what is possible with blockchains and smart contracts.”

Though his appointment is with the computer science and cybersecurity engineering departments, he sees amazing potential collaborations between different groups because cybersecurity spans many units. As time goes on, he aims to understand what’s available and coordinate significant cybersecurity initiatives.

Department of Computer Science chair David Rosenblum says, “Giuseppe is an internationally leading scholar who brings to Mason an outstanding record of research achievement in computer security, as well as extensive leadership experience in academic administration and entrepreneurship. We look forward to supporting him as he leads strategic research efforts in critically important areas such as blockchain technology and trustworthy AI.”