The science of computer security

March 26, 2024

Grant Ho in Switzerland
Grant on a hike in Wengen, Switzerland, summer 2023

An interview with Grant Ho, Assistant Professor in Computer Science

In July 2023, Grant Ho joined the University of Chicago as an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science. Grant, who grew up in South Florida, received a bachelor’s in computer science from Stanford University and a PhD in computer science from UC Berkeley. Before joining UChicago, he was a CSE Postdoctoral Fellow in the Sysnet group at UC San Diego and a visiting researcher at Corelight Labs. We interviewed Grant about his interests and experiences.

Why did you choose the University of Chicago?

I was really excited by the culture and people in the computer science department and broader university at UChicago. There are many amazing colleagues and students who are intellectually inspiring, working on interesting and impactful ideas, and are all-around energetic and friendly people.

Please describe your primary research interests for a general audience.

My research focuses broadly on improving the state of computer security. Currently, my group studies how we can use large-scale datasets to protect enterprises (companies and organizations) against sophisticated attacks like data breaches and ransomware. Our research spans everything from analyzing real-world data to understand the efficacy and burdens of common security measures to building new systems that can automatically detect and investigate potential attacks.

What is the most interesting thing that you are working on right now?

It’s hard to pick one! One project that I’m very excited about right now focuses on helping organizations recover from a cyberattack in a faster and more comprehensive manner. To properly recover from an attack, organizations need to fully understand what an attacker has done on their computer networks and what data the attacker has managed to compromise. Right now, this process takes weeks of tedious, manual analysis even for teams of expert security analysts. In our project, we’re building a system that can help automatically reconstruct a complete and precise timeline of what an attacker has managed to do. Our hope is that this will dramatically reduce the time it takes for organizations to repair their systems, thoroughly evict the attackers, and implement mitigations against future attacks.

What is one big question in your field that you hope gets answered in your lifetime?

How do we keep organizations safe against computer attacks?

What PSD research outside of your own lab excites you? Elsewhere in the University?

There are so many amazing projects happening! In my department alone, there are too many cool things to name. One area of research that’s very cool is the work on generative AI and privacy that the SAND Lab is doing. Another area of expertise at UChicago that involves researchers from both the CS department and the broader university pertains to problems involving technology, society, and policy, which my colleagues like Nick Feamster, Marshini Chetty, and Aloni Cohen are working on.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I decided to become a professor in large part for the opportunity to mentor, teach, and work with amazing students; at UChicago, this has been a dream come true! Outside of work, I enjoy reading fiction novels, exploring the city, and trying new kinds of food.

Who inspires you?

My students and collaborators!

What does diversity and inclusion mean to you?

Having a culture and community where everyone feels comfortable being their authentic self and can learn and understand how a variety of people from different backgrounds experience and see the world.

What three words best describe you?

Curious, energetic, and friendly.

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