Forbes 30 Under 30 Recognizes Rising Star Allison Lewko

Jan 30 2014 | By Holly Evarts | Photo: Ryan John Lee

Allison Lewko, assistant professor of computer science, has been named to the annual Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the Science & Healthcare category for her work on designing encryption algorithms and keeping data secure. She joins an exciting group of, as the Forbes editors note, “young disruptors, innovators, and entrepreneurs who are impatient to change the world.”

Allison Lewko

"I'm very proud to be recognized as part of such a talented group," says Lewko, who is focused on developing new techniques to achieve flexible data sharing and enhanced security in the cloud, for example, how to keep secrets on devices like cloud-connected cell phones that are frequently leaking information.

“We call this functional encryption, a way to enable only the users with specific attributes that match the encryption policy of the data to decrypt the document,” she explains. She sees functional encryption as a new method for obtaining strong security guarantees while still allowing a variety of uses of sensitive data. “In previous models of encryption, encrypted data would be safe but not very usable,” she adds. “We are modernizing these concepts and creating tools that can scale with the size and variety of data and users in current systems.”

Before coming to Columbia Engineering in fall 2013, Lewko was a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft Research New England, where she designed error-tolerant algorithms. She is a faculty affiliate of Columbia’s Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering and the Institute’s Cybersecurity Center.