Ralica Ada Popa, Co-Founder & CTO at PreVeil

Romanian women, Raluca Ada Popa, have been nominated by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology ”World top 35 innovators under the age of 35“. MIT creates a list like this every year to celebrate accomplishments that have a dramatic impact on the world.

She has created a special encrypting system that works with several applications and offers them a high level of protection. Her invention is very useful as it has been demonstrated that even though hackers manage to break in, they are not able to decipher data. Her invention is now used by hospitals to share patient records without affect patient confidentiality. As well, another system she invented called Opaque, which secures hardware systems against compromised software is now used by IBM.

She is is an assistant professor of computer science at UC Berkeley. Her research is in security and applied cryptography. Raluca received her PhD in computer security as well as two BS degrees, in computer science and in mathematics, from MIT. She is the recipient of an Intel Early Career Faculty Honor award, George M. Sprowls Award for best MIT CS doctoral thesis, a Google PhD Fellowship, a Johnson award for best CS Masters of Engineering thesis from MIT, and a CRA Outstanding undergraduate award from the ACM.

“I am undoubtedly in love with cybersecurity. I teach cybersecurity to the 600 students in my class at UC Berkeley. I also run a cybersecurity research group at UC Berkeley. Additionally, I co-founded a cybersecurity company called PreVeil. But let me tell you that my love for this field is not merely subjective. Cybersecurity is a uniquely beautiful and rewarding discipline of computer science. While theoretical disciplines in computer science feature beautiful and deep results, they rarely get adopted in the real world. 

Conversely, while applied disciplines of computer science build innovative new systems, they often lack a deep analytical core. Cybersecurity provides the best of both worlds. For example, one of the core tools of cybersecurity is cryptography. It can do magic. At the same time, cybersecurity targets real and important problems facing society, such as the numerous cases of data breaches, identity theft and privacy violations which abound in our daily news. Building better security systems often involves designing cryptographic protocols and then engineering systems to leverage them.

The rigor and practicality are why I chose to work on cybersecurity as early as my undergraduate studies at MIT. I loved the ability to play with powerful theoretical tools while also building systems that addressed real problems. You get both meanings of code in one discipline. You design new cryptographic codes to protect sensitive data and you can code up new security systems using them.

I loved the ability to play with powerful theoretical tools while also building systems that addressed real problems. PreVeil protects sensitive data in common collaboration tools (like email, file sharing) by encrypting the data with end-to-end encryption. We leverage a concept called secret sharing. With secret sharing the client’s key is split into multiple pieces, and each piece is given to a member of a group of trustworthy people.”