Raluca Ada Popa
Department of Electrical
Engineering and Computer Science
32 Vassar St., 32-G982
Cambridge, MA 02139
Email: raluca AT csail DOT
mit DOT edu
I am a third year Ph.D. student in the
of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. I also earned my
Masters of Engineering in Computer Science and my Bachelors in
Computer Science and in Mathematics from MIT.
I am interested in
systems security and cryptography. In particular, I like to build
secure systems that have solid cryptographic foundations.
My research advisor is Professor Nickolai
Zeldovich, and I am also lucky to work with: Professor Hari Balakrishnan (in systems) as well as Professor Shafi Goldwasser, Dr. Yael Kalai, and Professor Vinod Vaikuntanathan (in cryptography).
During undergraduate, I also enjoyed working with and learning from
Professor Barbara Liskov and
Ronald L. Rivest for two years.
I am interested in systems security and, in particular, I love
the combination of systems and cryptography. I enjoy building secure systems with solid cryptographic foundations.
Much of my recent research is focused on enabling systems (with their computations) to run on encrypted data. Here is why: there are many confidentiality attacks an untrusted component could undergo, and designing solutions for each attack is impossible; but having the untrusted component manipulate only encrypted data promises a cleaner end-to-end solution to these various problems.
Below is a description of my projects so far
(both from graduate and undergraduate years).
Recent and ongoing projects:
- SQL over encrypted data: CryptDB - checkout the webpage!
a database management system that runs queries on an encrypted database without decrypting the data. This approach protects sensitive data even against attackers with root access to the database server because attackers can only obtain encrypted data. Our SOSP 2011 paper describes the approach. CryptDB was selected as a CACM Research Highlight. CryptDB is joint work with Prof. Nickolai Zeldovich and Prof. Hari Balakrishnan.
- Functional encryption
Functional encryption is a useful tool for computing on encrypted data. For example, it can be used to reduce the blowup in runtime givey by fully homomorphic encryption, the existing tool for computing on encrypted data. We provide the first construction of functional encryption with short ciphertexts for generic functions. A paper is in submission, but meanwhile checkout our Crypto ePrint paper. This is joint work with Prof. Shafi Goldwasser, Dr. Yael Kalai, Prof. Vinod Vaikuntanathan and Prof. Nickolai Zeldovich.
- Order-preserving encryption
Order-preserving encryption is useful to compute SQL order queries on an encrypted database in an efficient way. We provide the first construction of an order-preserving scheme that achieves the ideal notion of security put forth in the literature. A paper is in submission.
- Location privacy: VPriv and PrivStats - checkout the webpage!
My work was
on protecting the privacy of drivers or peers in
a social network, while enabling interesting location-based
applications. Our first project, VPriv, enables application
servers to compute functions on the paths of drivers (e.g., total tolls
for path in a month) without learning the path of the drivers.
Our second project, PrivStats, preserves location privacy while computing aggregate statistics over location data (e.g., traffic congestion). Check out our Usenix Security 2009 and CCS 2011 papers, joint work with Prof. Hari Balakrishnan and Prof. Andrew J. Blumberg.
- Cloud storage security: CloudProof
I built a cloud storage security protocol with
Helen J. Wang and Jay Lorch during my internship at Microsoft
Research, Redmond. Most cloud storage systems
do not guarantee security (e.g., confidentiality and integrity
of data as well as some desirable consistency and freshness
properties); CloudProof detects efficiently if these properties were not satisfied
and provides proofs that can be verified by any outside party when they are not. Check out our USENIX 2011 paper.
- Electronic voting security.
Professor Ronald L. Rivest and
Professor Javed A. Aslam,
we worked on designing effective techniques for auditing eletronic elections:
detecting election fraud with high probability.
We applied theoretical computer science and
mathematics (such as combinatorics, probability, game theory, and
algorithms) to electronic voting. Our first
project provided estimates of the number of precincts or votes that
need to be sampled in order to achieve a desired level of confidence
that the election result is correct. Our second project was proposing
more efficient auditing procedures than the ones in the literature by
taking advantage of the observation that precincts have different sizes
and thus may represent different benefits to an adversary.
Check out our EVT 2007 and EVT 2008 papers.
- Byzantine fault tolerant systems.
I worked in the
Professor Barbara Liskov
in Byzantine Fault Tolerant systems. I designed and implemented
a Byzantine fault tolerant cooperative caching system
and I also worked on a second system,
Census, whose goal was to build a very scalable consistent membership
service that is resilient to fail-stop and Byzantine clients. For details, see our USENIX 2009 paper on Census.
- Software bugs: MUVI
I worked on detecting concurrency bugs in operating systems code with
Professor Yuanyuan Zhou
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign,
Opera research group.
My internship was sponsored by the
Women Distributed Mentor Project Award for Summer Research. MUVI, our tool found quite a few
bugs in Linux and Mozilla: check out our SOSP 2007 paper.
- (Alphabetical author order - theory paper:) Shafi
Goldwasser, Yael Kalai, Raluca Ada Popa, Vinod Vaikuntanathan, and Nickolai Zeldovich.
Worst-Case Curse for Cryptographic Constructions.
To appear in the Proceedings of the 33th International
Cryptology Conference (CRYPTO'13), August
- (Alphabetical author order - theory paper:) Shafi Goldwasser, Yael Kalai, Raluca Ada Popa, Vinod Vaikuntanathan, and Nickolai Zeldovich.
Reusable Garbled Circuits and Succinct Functional Encryption.
In the Proceedings of the 45th Annual ACM Symposium on Theory of Computing (STOC'13), June 2013.
Raluca Ada Popa, Frank H. Li, and Nickolai
An Ideal-Security Protocol for Order-Preserving Encoding.
In the Proceedings of the 34th IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy (IEEE S&P/Oakland'13), May 2013.
Raluca Ada Popa, Catherine M. S. Redfield, Nickolai
Zeldovich, and Hari Balakrishnan.
CryptDB: Processing Queries on an Encrypted Database.
CACM Research Highlight, Communications of the ACM, 55(9):103-111, September 2012, with accompanying
- Meelap Shah, Emily Stark, Raluca Ada Popa, and Nickolai Zeldovich.
Language Support for Efficient Computation over Encrypted Data.
In Off the Beaten Track Workshop: Underrepresented Problems for Programming Language Researchers, January 2012.
- Raluca Ada Popa and Nickolai
Cryptographic Treatment of CryptDB's Adjustable Join.
MIT-CSAIL-TR-2012-006, March 2012.
- Raluca Ada Popa, Catherine M. S. Redfield, Nickolai
Zeldovich, and Hari Balakrishnan.
Protecting Confidentiality with Encrypted Query Processing. [BibTeX]
In the Proceedings of the 23rd ACM Symposium on Operating Systems
Principles (SOSP'11), October 2011.
Raluca Ada Popa, Andrew J. Blumberg, Hari Balakrishnan,
and Frank H. Li.
and Accountability for Location-Based Aggregate Statistics. [BibTeX]
In the Proceedings of the 18th ACM Conference on Computer and
Communications Security (CCS'11), October 2011.
Raluca Ada Popa, Alessandro Chiesa, Tural Badirkhanli, and Muriel Médard.
Going Beyond Pollution Attacks: Forcing Byzantine Clients to Code Correctly.
CoRR abs/1108.2080: 2011.
Raluca Ada Popa, Jay Lorch, David Molnar, Helen J. Wang,
and Li Zhuang.
Security in Cloud Storage SLAs with CloudProof. [BibTeX]
In the Proceedings of the 2011 USENIX Annual Technical Conference (USENIX'11), June 2011.
Also as a tech report, TechReport MSR-TR-2010-46.
Carlo Curino, Evan P. C. Jones, Raluca Ada Popa, Nirmesh
Malviya, Eugene Wu, Sam Madden, Hari Balakrishnan, and Nickolai
Cloud: A Database-as-a-Service for the Cloud. [BibTeX]
5th Biennial Conference on Innovative Data Systems Research (CIDR'11), January 2011.
Raluca Ada Popa.
Provable and Practical Location Privacy for Vehicular and Mobile Systems.
Awarded the 2010 Charles and Jennifer Johnson award for best CS Masters of Engineering thesis.
Raluca Ada Popa, Hari Balakrishnan, and Andrew J.
Privacy in Location-Based Vehicular Services. [BibTeX]
In the proceedings of the 18th USENIX Security Symposium, (USENIX
SECURITY'09), August 2009.
James Cowling, Dan Ports, Barbara Liskov, Raluca Ada Popa,
and Abhijeet Gaikwad.
Location-Aware Membership Management for Large-Scale Distributed
In the proceedings of the 2009 USENIX Annual Technical Conference (USENIX'09), June 2009.
Javed A. Aslam, Raluca Ada Popa,
and Ronald L. Rivest.
Auditing Elections When Precincts Have
Different Sizes. [BibTeX]
In the Proceedings of the 2008 USENIX/ACCURATE Electronic Voting
Technology Workshop (EVT'08), July 2008.
Javed A. Aslam, Raluca Ada Popa,
and Ronald L. Rivest.
On Estimating the Size and Confidence
Statistical Audit. [BibTeX]
In the Proceedings of the 2007 USENIX/ACCURATE Electronic Voting
Technology Workshop (EVT'07) held in conjunction with the 16th USENIX Security Symposium, August 2008.
Shan Lu, Soyeon Park, Chongfeng Hu, Xiao Ma,
Weihang Jiang, Zhenmin Li, Raluca Ada Popa, and Yuanyuan Zhou.
Automatically Inferring Multi-Variable Access Correlations and
Detecting Related Semantic and Concurrency Bugs. [BibTeX]
In the Proceedings of the 21st ACM Symposium on Operating Systems
Principles (SOSP'07), October 2007.
Succinct Functional Encryption and Applications: Reusable Garbled Circuits and Beyond.
- Talk at the NYC Crypto Day, Columbia University, NYC, January 2013.
- Talk at Stanford's security group, Stanford, CA, January 2013.
- Talk at the Boston University's security seminar, Boston, MA, December 2012.
- CryptDB: Protecting Confidentiality with Encrypted Query Processing.
I had the chance to be invited in many places to talk about CryptDB, some of which are:
- Real-world cryptography workshop, Stanford University, Palo Alto, January 2013.
- Microsoft Research, Redmond, WA, November 2012.
- University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada, August 2012. [pptx]
- IBM T. J. Watson Research Center, Hawthorne, NY, June 2012.
- Conference talk, 23rd ACM Symposium on Operating Systems
Principles (SOSP'11), October 2011. [pptx]
- BBN Technologies, Cambridge, MA, June 2011.
- Quanta Research, Boston, MA, May 2011.
- Berkeley’s Cloud Computing Seminar, April 2011.
- Berkeley’s Security Seminar, April 2011.
England Database day, Cambridge, MA, January 2011, (NEDB'11).
Privacy and Accountability for Location-Based Aggregate Statistics.
Conference talk: 18th ACM Conference on Computer and Communications Security (CCS'11), Chicago, IL, October 2011. [pptx]
- Enabling Security in Cloud Storage SLAs with CloudProof.
Talk at the 2011 USENIX Annual Technical Conference (USENIX'11), Portland, OR, June 2011. [pdf]
- Enabling Security in Cloud SLAs.
End of internship talk at Microsoft Research, Redmond, WA, September 2009.
Protecting Privacy in Location-Based Vehicular Services.
at the 18th USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX
SECURITY'09), Montreal, Canada, June 2009. [pdf]
Privacy in Location-Based Vehicular Services.
Invited talk at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Security Seminar, Amherst, MA, November 2008.
Auditing Elections When Precincts Have Different Sizes.
at 2008 USENIX/ACCURATE Electronic Voting Technology
Workshop (EVT'08) held in conjunction with 17th USENIX Security Symposium, August
2008, San Jose, CA. [pdf]
the Size and Confidence of a Statistical Audit.
Talk presented at 2007 USENIX/ACCURATE Electronic Voting Technology
Workshop (EVT'07) held in conjunction with 16th USENIX Security Symposium, August
2007, Boston, MA. [ppt]
Mentoring & Teaching
I have enjoyed mentoring and working with younger students. I was happy to be the mentor of Catherine M.S. Redfield for two years, 2010-2012: one year, she was an undergraduate researcher with us, and the following year she earned her Master's degree with us. I am equally happy to mentor Frank H. Li during his undergraduate work with us, 2011-present. I also mentored other students for semester-long projects.
I am a teaching assistant for 6.857 Computer and Network Security for Spring 2013, and I am teaching a weekly recitation.
In the past, I have tutored students for the Office of Minority Education at MIT, during 2007-2009.
I started the CSAIL Security seminar, meant to bridge systems and cryptography at MIT by bringing together researchers from both areas (and other areas of security) at MIT and institutions around. The seminar has been going strong for two years.
Google Ph.D. Fellowship for Secure Cloud Computing
Charles and Jennifer Johnson award for best CS Masters of
Morris Joseph Levin Award for best MasterWorks presentation
- 2009 MIT Jacobs Presidential Fellowship for
Senior Year at MIT:
- 2009 CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Award for
research, the Female Winner, Nationwide
- 2009 MIT CSAIL Pogosyants Award for
Junior Year at MIT:
2008 Google Anita Borg Scholarship,
2008 CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Award,
Runner Up, Female Award (Fall 2007)
Sophomore Year at MIT:
- Letter of Recognition for
6.002 ("Circuits and Electronics") (Fall
2006) - top student in the class (~ 200 students)
Best Game Award and George C. Newton
Outstanding Undergraduate Laboratory Project Prize, Third Place - for
the final project in 6.170 ("Laboratory in Software Engineering")
- Letter of Recognition
("Computation Structures") (Fall 2006)
Freshman Year at Caltech
- Caltech Upper Class Merit Award, Carnation
- CRA - Women Distributed Mentor Project Award for
High school ("Gheorghe Lazar" National College) in Sibiu, Romania
- Graduating as Valedictorian
Here is a list of only the
relevant science classes I took (humanities and other unrelated classes
are not included).
- 6.897 ("Cloud Computing"), A, Prof. Hari Balakrishnan
- 6.889 ("New Developments in Cryptography"), A, Prof. Shafi Goldwasser
- 6.S898 ("The Evolution of a Proof"), A, Prof. Shafi Goldwasser
- 6.845 ("Quantum
Complexity Theory"), A+, Prof. Scott Aaronson
- 6.867 ("Machine
Learning"), A, Prof. Tommi Jaakkola
Senior year at MIT:
- 6.857 ("Computer and
Networks Security"), A+, Prof. Ronald L. Rivest
- 6.989 ("Network
Coding"), A, Prof. Muriel Medard
- 8.282 ("Introduction
to Astronomy"), A+, Prof. Max Tegmark
- 18.443 ("Statistics
for Applications"), A, Prof. R. M. Dudley
- 6.854 ("Advanced
Algorithms"), A+, Prof. Michel X. Goemans
- 6.830 ("Database
Systems"), A, Prof. Samuel Madden
- 6.UAP ("Thesis"), A+,
Prof. Hari Balakrishnan
Junior year at MIT:
- 6.829 (Graduate
Level, "Computer Networks"), A, Prof. Hari Balakrishnan
- 6.875 (Graduate
Level, "Cryptography and Cryptanalysis"), A, Prof. Silvio Micali
- 6.003 ("Signals and
Processing"), A, Prof. Qing Hu
- 6.UAT ("Preparation
for Undergraduate Advanced Project"- presentations class), A+, Prof.
- 6.824 (Graduate
level, "Distributed Systems"), A, Prof. Frans Kaashoek
- 6.828 (Graduate
level, "Operating System Engineering"), A, Prof. Robert Morris
- 18.821 ("Project
Laboratory in Mathematics"), A, Prof. David Vogan
Sophomore year at
- 6.170 ("Laboratory in Software Engineering"), A+, Best Game Award,
Prof. Saman Amarasinghe, Prof. Michael D. Ernst
- 18.440 ("Probability and Random Variables"), A+, Prof.
- 6.033 ("Computer
Systems Engineering"), A, Prof. M. Frans Kaashoek, Prof. Barbara Liskov
- 6.002 (Circuits and Electronics), A+, Finished 1st in class, Prof.
Jesus A. del Alamo
- 6.004 (Computation Structures), A, Awarded letter of recognition,
Prof. Srini Devadas and Prof. Steve Ward
- 6.034 (Artificial Intelligence), A, Prof. Patrick H. Winston
- 18.03 (Differential Equations), A+, Prof. Alar Toomre
Freshman at Caltech:
- Cs38 (Introduction to Algorithms), A
- Ma1c Analytical Track (Calculus of one and several variables and
linear algebra), A+
- Ph1c Practical Track (Classical Mechanics and Electromagnetism), A+
- Cs11 (Computer Language Shop), Pass
Winter 2006 *):
- Cs21 (Decidability and Tractability), A+
- Ma1b Analytical Track (Calculus of one and several variables and
linear algebra), A, finished 1st in class
- Ph1b Practical Track (Classical Mechanics and Electromagnetism), A+,
1st in class
- Cs2 (Introduction to Programming Methods), A+
Fall 2005 *):
- Cs1 (Introduction to Computation), finished 1st in class, among over
- Ph1a (Classical mechanics and electromagnetism), 1st in class, among
- Ma/Cs6a (Introduction to discrete mathematics), A+
- Ma1a (Calculus of one and several variables and linear algebra), A+
GPA: 4.1 / 4.0
*) These are shadow grades from Freshman Progress Reports, as freshmen
officially receive only P/F grades for their first two terms at Caltech.
A bit about me
I am originally from
Sibiu, a medieval town in
the southern part of Transylvania in
Romania somewhere close to
Dracula's legendary castle. I enjoy long runs in nature or by Charles river.