John Aycock

John Aycock

Areas of Research

I've been working in computer security for many years now, and before that in compilers. My latest work in security is on unconventional alternatives to computer security defenses that are unexplored or underexplored. In the process of doing so, I've become interested in one very unconventional alternative: how can security work be applied to and linked with our understanding of technology? Availability is one of the central tenets of security, and in a broad sense, things that have not been preserved cannot be available by definition. Relatively few resources have been devoted to preventing a digital dark age, and yet avoiding this loss is an important part of securing our digital future. Since the computer game industry is massive and games have an increasingly important role in society and culture, I've been focusing on the study of old computer games, work that I call "retrogame archaeology". It is a technical discipline that has tie-ins with numerous areas of computer systems, including compilers, interpreters, programming languages, data compression, operating systems, computer security, reverse engineering, code obfuscation, and copy protection. While I've been looking at this from the technical point of view, it is inherently interdisciplinary and overlaps with work in game studies, history, and archaeology.

Supervising degrees

Computational Media Design - Doctoral: Accepting Inquiries
Computational Media Design - Masters: Accepting Inquiries
Computer Science - Doctoral: Accepting Inquiries
Computer Science - Masters: Accepting Inquiries

Working with this supervisor

An ideal candidate would have strong writing and communications skills, in addition to being adept in both high- and low-level programming. The best students will often have a portfolio that includes side projects that were not part of assigned coursework. Reverse engineering would also be an asset. (Please note: due to a potential conflict of interest while I'm director of the Computational Media Design program, I'm not accepting new CMD students currently; I'm only looking for Computer Science students.)

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