Idziorek uses IBM PhD Fellowship to research cloud computing security

Joseph Idziorek
Joseph Idziorek

Joseph Idziorek has found his place in cloud computing, and IBM has noticed.

A doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering (ECpE) at Iowa State University, Idziorek was recently awarded an IBM PhD Fellowship. The award comes with a $20,000 stipend and $10,000 education allowance, and marks the fourth time in the past six years that the fellowship has been awarded to an ECpE student.

Idziorek, who is specializing in secure and reliable computing, has turned his research focus toward cloud computing. His work is aimed at filling an important need in the rapidly emerging computing model.

“Cloud computing is relatively new, but gaining significant momentum, and there’s a lot of talk about the security aspects,” Idziorek said. “My work aligns with IBM’s business objectives because they’re moving a lot of their products to the cloud computing concept. Where the business goes, the money goes, and where money goes, security goes.”

University Professor Doug Jacobson, Idziorek’s major professor and a primary supporter of his nomination, agreed that the time is right for intensive research in this area.

“To date, cloud computing has been developed without a focus on security,” said Jacobson, who has established his own international reputation as an expert in information assurance. “I truly believe that Joe will make great contributions to the area during his time at Iowa State.”

Idziorek’s research targets a scenario known as an economic denial of sustainability attack. In the cloud computing model, as he explained it, users forgo maintaining their own computing resources while renting services from a vendor—paying for CPU cycles or bandwidth, for example. A malicious user, however, could attack the financial viability of the cloud model by “consuming resources under the radar,” Idziorek said. “Attackers incur a financial burden on the service user by maliciously requesting services, such as downloading and uploading data, to try to drive the user to the point that they can’t economically sustain their business in the cloud.”

Working to close that gap puts the third-year PhD student at the forefront of an emerging security niche, although it’s an interest that he developed relatively recently. In fact, it was the dual influences of Jacobson and Iowa State alumni at IBM that guided Idziorek to his current research.

“When I was an undergraduate in computer engineering (at St. Cloud State), I had very little experience with security,” Idziorek said. “I couldn’t quite find my place in computer engineering.”

But a post-degree internship at IBM in Rochester, Minnesota, put Idziorek in contact with “a ton of alumni from Iowa State,” as he put it, including his mentor, IBM program director Sam Ellis. “As I was looking at grad schools, they told me, ‘You’ve got to go check out Iowa State.’”

That’s just what Idziorek did, and his stops included a visit to Jacobson’s ISEAGE (Internet-Scale Event and Attack Generation Environment) lab. “That really sparked my interest,” Idziorek said. “I thought, ‘yeah, I could spend the next 30 years of my life doing this.’ I went home that night and wrote my cover letter for my application to Iowa State.”

He plans to participate in another IBM internship this summer at the IBM Watson Research Center in New York, with Ellis continuing as his IBM mentor.