Assistant Professor of Computer Science, UC Berkeley

Co-founder and Co-Director of the RISELab, UC Berkeley

“End to end encryption principle is the way forward, the way the world is heading towards right now because it provides a much cleaner guarantee of security than traditional security which is insufficient”
- Raluca Ada Popa

Hari Sreenivasan of PBS NewsHour Interviews Raluca Ada Popa





WHY HER, WHY NOW? As higher education pivots to online learning and greater virtualization, risks to privacy are growing. Ada Popa is an expert on cryptography, confidentiality, and data security.

EXPERTISE Cybersecurity, secure cloud computing


Developed encryption systems that prevent data from being deciphered by hackers Developed Helen, a system that hospitals can use to share patient records without compromising confidentiality Developed Opaque, which secures hardware systems against potentially compromised software and is used by companies like IBM


Ada Popa has been an assistant professor of computer science at the UC Berkeley College of Engineering since 2015, where she specializes in computer security and applied cryptography (writing and solving codes). Each year, she teaches cybersecurity to more than 600 students. She worked as a postdoctoral researcher at ETH Zurich, a public research university in Switzerland, from 2014 to 2015. She’s won a number of awards, among them the George M. Sprowls Award for best MIT Computer Science doctoral thesis, a Google Ph.D. Fellowship, a Johnson Award for best Computer Science Master of Engineering thesis from MIT, a Sloan Foundation Fellowship award, and was named to Technology Review’s 35 Innovators under 35 list. She was born in Romania and lived there through high school.

DEGREES Bachelor’s (B.A.s) in Computer Science and Mathematics from MIT Master of Engineering (M.E.) in Computer Science from MIT Doctorate (Ph.D.) in Computer Science from MIT

MAJOR PUBLICATIONS “Helen: Maliciously Secure Coopetitive Learning for Linear Models,” Cornell University, September 2019 Popa helped design and build Helen, a system that allows systems to share data without decrypting it (known as “coopetitive learning”). Hospitals can use Helen to share patient records without compromising confidentiality. “An Off-Chip Attack on Hardware Enclaves via the Memory Bus,” USENIX Security Symposium (USENIX Security 20), August 2020 Ada Popa and her fellow researchers demonstrate how an attacker can hack a hardware system using Membuster (an off-chip attack that’s particularly difficult to thwart). She explores the challenges Membuster attackers must overcome, such as the fact that an attack must occur with minimal interference to a victim to prevent detection. She introduces solutions to negate these vulnerabilities and outlines how to engineer a successful attack that can leak most sensitive data with high accuracy. FURTHER READING

“Her computer security method could protect data, even when attackers break in,” MIT Technology Review, August 2019 MIT highlights Ada Popa’s fix for a fundamental cybersecurity challenge: Securing computer systems without relying on firewalls to keep hackers out. She’s created encryption systems that prevent data from being deciphered by hackers even if they do manage to break in. “Reinventing Cybersecurity,” Berkeley Engineer Magazine, April 2020 Ada Popa says the world can reap great benefits from private data if it can figure out how to use it securely. She says systems that enable secure data-sharing could enable the world to answer questions like “What’s the best cancer treatment across all hospitals?” and “What are the indicators for a particular diagnosis?” “Professor’s Corner: Raluca Ada Popa of UC Berkeley,” Medium, September 2016 Ada Popa discusses the benefits of a system that provides hackers with access to only encrypted data: Users wouldn’t have to worry about companies like Google and Facebook seeing their private messages and customers could store data on the cloud without the cloud seeing the actual data.

Higher Education Research, Cybersecurity and CMMC Compliance Ada Popa and Brian Kelly, director of EDUCAUSE’s Cybersecurity Program, analyze the Department of Defense’s new Cybersecurity Maturity Model Framework (CMMC).


“Raluca Ada Popa - Applied Cryptography Proposal,” September 2018 Ada Popa explores how organizations can benefit from being able to share only the result of a computation without having to share the sensitive data itself. Hospitals, for instance, could use large bodies of encrypted data to develop the most effective cancer treatment. “Raluca Popa at EmTech2019,” , October 2019 Ada Popa provides a three-minute overview of her work on encryption systems that earned her MIT Technology Review’s 35 Under 35 Award for 2019.