UT student wins KHMW Thesis Prize

Simon de Vries has been awarded the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities (KHMW) Thesis Prize in the Internet & Engineering Sciences category. He developed a protocol to secure data sent via OpenVPN today from future hacks carried out using quantum computers.

Mr De Vries graduated from the Master’s programme in Cyber Security at the University of Twente in August last year.

OpenVPN is a freely available program (with an open source code) that is used to create secure data connections. Its users include employees who work from home via remote access to their company systems. All information transmitted via this connection is secured. However, hackers are still able to intercept and store such data. But the data in question is encrypted, so they can’t decrypt it. At least, not yet. They will be able to decrypt this data using quantum computers, when these become available. Thus, the impending development of quantum computers means that any data sent via OpenVPN is retroactively vulnerable. This is because hackers can just save and store the data for the time being, and decrypt it later on using a quantum computer.

PhD level

Working at the University of Twente, Simon de Vries developed a protocol that you can use to secure data sent via OpenVPN against quantum computers. His biggest challenge was to ensure that this did not greatly lengthen the time required to exchange security keys – a process referred to in computer jargon as the ‘handshake’. Mr De Vries’ supervisor, Andreas Peter, is very proud of his student’s achievements. “Simon not only developed the protocol, he also implemented it and even managed to convince a major IT security company to use his protocol. This is an exceptional achievement. You might expect work of this calibre from a PhD student, but certainly not from someone who is still following a Master’s programme.” Last year, Simon de Vries received the ENIAC Master’s Thesis Award for his thesis entitled ‘Achieving 128-bit Security Against Quantum Attacks in OpenVPN’. 

Internet Thesis Awards

The Internet Thesis Awards were established by Google, Brinkhof, the SIDN Fund, Greenhost and the Royal Holland Society of Sciences and Humanities. A total of four thesis prizes – in different categories – were awarded at the ceremony, which was held at the Hodshon House in Haarlem. Simon de Vries won the prize in the Internet & Engineering Sciences category.

Joost Bruysters
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