Sébastien Canard, a cryptographer who is good for you

This research engineer and safety expert at Orange Labs develops cryptography solutions to protect the privacy of Internet users.

One of the challenges of "privacy" is to offer safe and simple services, while guaranteeing the confidentiality of personal data.

In the early 2000s, Sébastien Canard is offered a thesis at Orange. His supervisor is none other than the eminent Marc Girault, expert in cryptography who manages the R&D of the group: “Marc Girault is a bit like my mentor. He taught me cryptography and I often had the opportunity to work with him. “After his thesis, Sébastien Canard is hired at Orange Labs and specialises in the protection of sensitive data.

Balancing confidentiality and responsibility…

Member of the Orange Applied Crypto Group and prolific author (30 publications to his credit), Sébastien Canard develops cryptographic protocols to protect the personal or confidential data of individuals and businesses in their daily use of digital services. His research focuses particularly on the anonymity and the responsibility of users.

One of the challenges in the field of “privacy” is to offer safe and sufficiently simple services, while offering maximum guarantees on the non-disclosure of personal information. “Typically, it is all about allowing an individual the access to a service while providing minimal information about himself, explains the researcher. For example, a student goes to the cinema. To receive a discount, he must show his student card. By doing so, he reveals a lot more information about himself than necessary.”.

Cryptography, however, offers numerous solutions enabling users to remain anonymous through dedicated signature tools. Much of the research conducted by Sébastien Canard is to implement and improve these tools. In the above example, the student can prove his status without disclosing all his personal data. “He becomes an anonymous student, he continues, adding: nevertheless, anyone can’t just do whatever they want under cover of anonymity. This is where the concept of responsibility plays its part; it must be engaged if necessary.

… and confidentiality and security

At the 2016 Research Salon where we met, Sébastien Canard was presenting BlindIDS, an intrusion detection solution for encrypted network traffic. Whilst the research prototype demonstrates the maturity of the cryptographic tools, it is also a good example of an “open” project , in an environment that promotes innovation based on sharing and collaboration.

“BlindIDS is the result of a discussion with another Orange researcher working on intrusion detection systems, he tells me. He explained his needs to us and we talked about our cryptographic solutions.” The problem raised was: How to ensure the confidentiality of exchanges on the Internet without “blinding” the security solutions? How to encrypt data without interfering with the detection of cyber-attacks?

To find the solution, the two researchers joined forces, “him, mastering the way the intrusion detection systems work to spot malicious traffic, me, providing my expertise in cryptography, explained Sébastien Canard. We combined our knowledge to arrive at a solution which has already given birth to two patents, a publication and a prototype that we present today at the research Salon.”.

Events of this type, where the Orange collaborators can share their work, favours fruitful exchanges not only between researchers, but also with the operational entities of the group. “During the three days of the salon, explains Sébastien Canard, we collected use cases and concrete applications, giving us valuable information on the directions to which our work must extend.”

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