About us: Roland Wen

Roland is CryptoAUSTRALIA’s event coordinator in Sydney and a Visiting Fellow at UNSW. He has an unhealthy obsession with privacy, security, cryptography and elections.

CA: You are involved in IT security and privacy on many levels. You work within the industry. You teach and are an active academic researcher. Through CryptoAUSTRALIA you also became an activist. Can you tell us a little about your work?

I’m a lecturer and researcher at the School of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of New South Wales. My job - as well as my passion - is to generate interest, to create awareness of privacy and security implications in our IT students.

My research focus is on election security and privacy in both manual and technological systems. It involves security, risk, cryptography and software engineering.

I also work within the industry. It keeps me up-to-date to understand current concerns. As a modern engineer and scientist, I cannot lock myself into an ivory tower. I think it's really important and valuable to build partnerships between industry and academia.

CA: How did you get involved in CryptoAUSTRALIA?

Sydney’s privacy community was very policy focused for quite some time, then last year a Sydney CryptoParty popped up on meetup.com. I went along to one of the first ones and I met Gabor, the organiser. Our motivations align and his enthusiasm and energy are rather contagious. I couldn’t resist but to get involved.

CA: What do you do for CryptoAUSTRALIA?

I’m the event coordinator in Sydney. I liaise with speakers, book venues and do whatever it takes to make these meetups happen. I’m new to the function and thoroughly enjoy the opportunity to connect with such a diverse group of people. I learn about their [privacy] concerns and needs, which in turn helps me address these concerns as an educator and researcher. Naturally, I am big on education. It’s a critical sphere, the next generation of software engineers need to become more conscientious about security and even more importantly about privacy matters.

CA: Through your work, you already do a lot in this space, what motivated you to join CryptoAUSTRALIA?

Australia has very weak privacy legislations, so we, as citizens need to become more vigilant. A number of organisations - like the EFA - do a lot of great advocacy work at the policy level. I think a hands-on approach is equally important, and that’s exactly what CryptoAUSTRALIA is about. We want to help people understand their rights to privacy and teach them how they can protect themselves on a practical level. We do this through informal talks and hands-on workshops, which are the best way to engage people. It’s the best way to learn.

Privacy is extremely important, but most people do not realise how crucial it is in our life today. We lose bits of our privacy with every passing day and as a matter of fact, we contribute to this erosion ourselves. There are vast amounts of information available about us on the net and we voluntarily keep adding to it ourselves too. I want to educate people, I want them to think more about their own privacy, to understand the consequences.

CA: Can you tell us a little more about your work on electronic voting?

I became interested in electronic voting during my studies and chose it as my PhD topic. It is my key area of research at the moment. It’s an incredibly complex area with a very fine line to balance between security, privacy and transparency.

Most existing electronic voting systems are proprietary software hence there’s very minimal transparency and scrutiny of their inner workings. Software design and source code are not available for community/peer review. It’s usually the case that other properties get priority over privacy. Through my work, I want to ensure that privacy considerations get equal weight.

To give you just one example: it’s only a matter of time before Internet voting becomes widely used for parliamentary elections in Australia. Through my work, I want to ensure that these systems have strong, well-scrutinised mechanisms for protecting privacy. Appropriate regulation could help to achieve this, but we also need a society where people demand this type of protection and for that, they need to be aware, they need to care. That is why grassroots organisations, like CryptoAUSTRALIA are important.

This is the second of a series of articles introducing the members of CryptoAUSTRALIA

Peter Borbely is a technically skilled, content oriented and commercially astute digital media professional with over a decade experience across both the commercial and editorial floors