Huntsman Alumni Magazine

Spring 2014

Protecting Sensitive Data

Computer chipsIt’s a familiar process: you log in to your computer with a password, which is stored in RAM (temporary memory), so you can work and access encrypted data on your hard drive without having to re-enter your password every few seconds. When you log off or lose power, RAM is erased, and your encrypted data stays locked. Now imagine someone could access your RAM without it being erased; some hackers have found ways to do this, so efforts to hide passwords stored in RAM are essential.

Nicole Forsgren Velasquez, MIS ’01, a faculty member in the Management Information Systems Department and the School of Accountancy, was recently awarded a patent for describing a hardware design and process to obfuscate sensitive data stored in RAM. Titled “Encrypting Data in Volatile Memory,” the patent hides encryption keys by using hardware calls to obscure where encryption keys are stored and how they are accessed. This work represents the first patent awarded to any faculty member in the Huntsman School.