2014 NSA Award for Best Scientific Cybersecurity Paper

In a press release dated August 6, 2014, the National Security Agency (NSA) announced the winners in the 2nd annual Best Scientific Cybersecurity Paper Competition. The competition was established to recognize the current security paper that best reflects the conduct of good science in the work described. Dr. Whitfield Diffie, a member of the NCMF Board of Directors, was one of the eight distinguished experts among the reviewers for this year's competition.

This year’s winner, “Memory Trace Oblivious Program Execution,” was originally presented at the 2013 IEEE Computer Security Foundation and was written by Chang Liu, Dr. Michael Hicks, and Dr. Elaine Shi. Their research centered on a scientific foundation for the use of Oblivious RAM (ORAM) in programs. Two aspects of this work were especially compelling to the reviewers: First, it builds a bridge between cryptographic research and information flow research, and shows how the latter can help one apply cryptographic advances in a principled and secure manner. Second, it establishes a scientific foundation for the use of ORAM in programs and provides a valuable and exciting direction toward making ORAM practical.

Chang Liu is a second year doctoral student at the University of Maryland in the Department of Computer Science.

Dr. Michael Hicks is a professor in the Computer Science Department and University of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS) at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Dr. Elaine Shi is an assistant professor in the Computer Science Department at University of Maryland, College Park.

The winners will be honored on September 18th at an award ceremony, hosted by the NSA’s Director of Research, where their paper will be presented before an audience of cybersecurity experts.


As the only “in-house” organization in the Intelligence Community dedicated to advancing intelligence through science, the NSA Research Directorate creates breakthroughs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  The discoveries enable NSA to achieve and sustain intelligence advances against immediate and emerging threats to U.S. national security. 

Additional details about this year’s competition, including recipients of the honorable mention award, can be found at the Science of Security Virtual Organization website.

Read the full press release on the NSA web site.