Raluca Ada Popa found a fix for one of cybersecurity’s most fundamental challenges: securing computer systems without employing firewalls to keep hackers out.
Popa’s breakthrough work started with practical database management systems that could work on encrypted data. Though encrypting data had worked for simple messaging applications like WhatsApp, it was too sluggish for systems that needed to also run calculations on the data, like databases and web applications. But Popa found a way to make computation on encrypted data practical. Today, her encryption systems work with a range of applications and provide a level of protection that firewalls cannot: even if attackers break in, they have no way to decipher the data.