“Efficient verification of observational equivalences in cryptographic protocols.” Behind the title of this PhD due to be completed at the end of this year lies the meticulous work of Itsaka Rakotonirina. The young researcher, who studied at the University of Paris-Saclay, is a scientist through and through. “I passed my scientific baccalaureate in 2010 and followed it with a scientific preparatory class where I discovered a passion for computer science applied to mathematics.” One thing led quickly to another. “I had to do a placement at the end of the third year of my degree and I ended up at the Inria centre in Nancy. That was where I met one of the professors who later became my PhD supervisor”. A PhD, as already mentioned, that focuses on security. “The link between guarantee and confidence is at the core of my research. All smart objects, like telephones, tablets and even car keys, handle data at a distance and communicate with other devices. When these communications are intercepted or falsified, the door is left wide open to all kinds of of malevolent uses. My role is to analyse the way your devices communicate in order to guarantee that, even if a hacker spies on them, they won’t be able to extract sensitive user data” summarises Itsaka. The young researcher is working on the development of a programme designed to analyse every situation. “The aim is to develop new technologies that search for security weaknesses faster and more intelligently.”
Rock climbing to refocus
When he’s not busy developing new security processes, Itsaka takes time out at the climbing wall. “Sport is an important part of my life. Most days, I cycle to and from the University of Lorraine, which is just under an hour. I complement this activity by climbing once a week with the club in Maxéville.” When he’s on the wall, he forgets about everything else. “It’s a highlight in my week when I have the chance to think about nothing except the sport”. Just like classical music. “I find it relaxing. My mum was a harp teacher and my girlfriend followed the same path. In fact, that’s how I met her! We were volunteers at the same music event. At the time I played the flute, but I have since stopped. Today, I maintain a connection with music through my girlfriend’s concerts.” A daily routine far removed from cryptographic protocols! But not necessarily incompatible... “The advantage with my area of expertise is that I can work on it anywhere because digital security is so universal. That makes it easier for me to follow my girlfriend who has career prospects concentrated in Germany. There are plenty of interesting positions in R&D on the other side of the Rhine! Unless I decide not to go into research in the meantime, of course. The prospects are very varied... Just like my PhD subject”.