Computer Sciences welcomes Assistant Professor Rishab Goyal, specializing in cryptography and computer security

Rishab Goyal joins the UW-Madison Computer Sciences faculty from a postdoc position at MIT. He will teach and research in the areas of cryptography and computer security, and his main research question is, “How can advanced cryptography secure emerging applications in light of growing privacy concerns due to rapid scientific and technological innovation?” Goyal’s work challenges the all-or-nothing perception of security, with “security” and “access” no longer always being absolutes and opposing terms.  

Hometown: New Delhi, India 

Educational/professional background: I got my bachelor’s in Computer Science from IIT Delhi. I received my PhD at UT, where I was advised by Brent Waters. Later, I was an Apple research fellow at the Simons Institute. Most recently, I was a postdoctoral researcher at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), hosted by Vinod Vaikuntanathan. 

How did you get into your field of research? During my freshman year, I learnt about RSA encryption and the notion of fully homomorphic encryption. The counterintuitive nature of these concepts piqued my interest in studying Cryptography. Fortuitously, I was able to pursue a summer internship after my sophomore year at Max Planck Institute, where I learnt about zero knowledge proof systems among many other foundational cryptographic concepts. This further cemented my desire to do research in Cryptography, and I decided to pursue graduate school to begin my research career. 

Could you please describe your area of focus? My main area of research is Cryptography and Computer Security. In particular, I am interested in post-quantum and lattice-based cryptography with a focus on building secure systems with advanced capabilities. I am also interested in studying the impact of advanced cryptography on influencing public policy and law. 

What main issue do you address or problem do you seek to solve in your work? How can advanced cryptography secure emerging applications in light of growing privacy concerns due to rapid scientific and technological innovation? This is the central question that motivates my research.

What’s one thing you hope students who take a class with you will come away with? My goal will be to ensure that students leave with an ability to formulate their intuition about computer security in a formal and scientific manner. 

What attracted you to UW-Madison? There were multiple factors. The strong research support system provided to all faculty for encouraging next generation research was extremely attractive. This is particularly evidenced by WARF and its impact on UW-Madison. Moreover, having a large and strong student cohort will be a great resource for nurturing next generation researchers. 

What was your first visit to campus like? It was quite pleasant. I found the university quite walkable with numerous study and research pods for students and faculty to interact throughout the campus. 

What are you looking forward to doing or experiencing in Madison? I am looking forward to the Madison lifestyle and starting my faculty career. 

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how. I think my research work will be very relatable to the Wisconsin Idea moving forward. Over the last few decades, Cryptography has touched various facets of public policy, laws, and politics. And, given the current growth trajectory of science and technology, the impact of Cryptography on society will be massive. Going forward, I plan to draw legislators and policymakers to advanced cryptography, and engage them in blending available advanced cryptography with law and policy for the greater good of society. 

Please tell us about something you’re working on in layperson’s terms, so that non-computer scientists at UW-Madison and the general public can understand what you’re passionate about. A major part of my research is to push beyond existing boundaries of computer security. Traditionally, when people think about security they think it is all or nothing. Consider a simple physical example of a locked box. Locked boxes have been used for centuries by human civilization for obtaining security, but they have an “all-or-nothing” flavour to them. Either you don’t have a key and you get security, or you have a key and all security is lost. This belief system has been entrenched in our society where most people now think that security and access are two opposing terms. Informally, my work challenges this belief and designs systems which give access and security simultaneously. For example, in my work I have designed digital locked boxes that can be opened, but not shared; digital locked boxes that can not be opened, but their contents can be modified, and much more. These technologies go beyond the conventional wisdom of “all-or-nothing” security, and enable new generation technologies without sacrificing efficiency or compromising security. I am very passionate about designing such technologies, and sharing their potential impact on interdisciplinary research and global policy making for the benefit of society. 

Hobbies/other interests: Running and martial arts.