Sam Malek is passionate about making our digital lives more secure. As director of the Software Engineering and Analysis Lab (SEAL) at UC Irvine, he is developing tools and techniques to aid in the design, analysis, management and protection of large-scale software systems. Being able to safeguard software effectively is “an increasingly important problem,” says Malek. “Every other day, we hear about security attacks, whether directed at governments, private companies or individuals.” His investigations are proving useful for developers and organizations that want to find vulnerabilities in their software.
The need, Malek says, is great: “Software today is on mobile devices and is integrated into our homes, including the thermostat, fridge and car.” That convenience increases accessibility — a double-edged sword, Malek notes, since hackers, armed with GPS trackers and web cams, “can easily invade your privacy and get all sorts of information.” One potential response: Malek is exploring self-adaptive or self-managing software, which can monitor its own behavior and protect itself against such interruptions as a security attack, network problem or energy outage.
A Safer World
Malek, who earned his B.S. in Information & Computer Science at UC Irvine, is gratified that his alma mater values informatics. “The sky is the limit here,” he says. Malek teaches a course in software architecture and spends much of his time on research, funded by the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and National Science Foundation, among others. Next up: Building on the department’s” strength in human-computer interaction, Malek envisions collaborations that can advance research into social and behavioral aspects of software security. “Improving that intersection,” he says, “can only make our world safer.”