313: Dr Craig Costello

Dr. Craig Costello is a Senior Researcher in the Security and Cryptography group at Microsoft Research in Redmond, USA. Where his job is to keep what you want secret a secret - basically using some very complex mathematics.


He is among a formidable group of cryptographers who’s life’s work is to protect the internet against adversarial code breakers (aka cryptanalysts), both those that exist today in our classical computing world, and those that will exist in a quantum computing future.

Needless to say - he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the security of you and your data in an online world.

Craig is a Queenslander, and a listener to this very podcast - who reached out to me and told me that he might have some interesting things to talk about and he was not wrong.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s two types of people - those who have been hacked, and those who haven’t been hacked yet.

Unless you’re really careful, it will happen to you.

But soon enough, as quantum computers come to wider usage - the passwords that you and I both use now, even the 64-character randomly generated ones, will be as easy to crack as running through the banner at an AFL match.

Recently Google claimed that the Quantum computer they built was able to solve a problem in 200 seconds - a problem that the world’s currently fastest super computer would have taken 10,000 years to solve.

So Craig and his team are working hard to stay ahead of this.

Even if you’re the kind of person that uses Passw0rd1 as your password for everything - this chat is an important one because I feel it’s important to keep an eye on what developments are happening in the world of data security.

And it’s not just your FB account. It’s your email, it’s your bank balance, your health records, your GPS data - and as we get more and more connected, it is more and more risky.

So it’s important we know the risk.

It’s not all fear - in Australia we drove cars without seat belts from 1897, and people were getting gruesomely injured and killed before we figured out Seat Belts were a good idea finally in 1970.

So don’t worry. We figure it out eventually.

But hopefully this chat with Craig will help you and me figure it out a little quicker.

A note here - would you believe that when I recorded this, I’d done 297 episodes of this show, and had only lost three recordings - either due to battery failure of my recorder, a Hard Drive glitch or a software error.

I thought I’d lost the whole first half of this chat - and even sent the corrupted file back to Craig to see if there was anyone at Microsoft that he know who could salvage the data on the file.

No luck. I thought this podcast was going to be 32 minutes long.

Until Andy Maher my epic producer somehow managed to salvage the file.

So if occasionally there’s an odd chop in the cadence of the conversation - it’s because Andy had to slice out the unsalvageable data - but for the most part he resurrected this file from what was a zillion garbled ones and zeros.

If you like what you hear - you can find Craig’s excellent Ted Talk online.

Enjoy this conversation with Craig Costello.


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