USC ISI Director Honored with IEEE Senior Member Status

July 16, 2020
Lila Jones

Terry Benzel, the director of the Networking and Cybersecurity Division at USC's Information Sciences Institute, was recently designated a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, or IEEE, a professional association for electronic and electrical engineering with the goal of advancing technological innovation to create a better future for humanity.

"I am very honored to be elevated to senior member status and I hope to use the position to help mentor younger researchers. I am particularly supportive of working with women and underrepresented minorities," Benzel said.

IEEE elevates members to senior status for significant contributions to their profession. Only 10% of over 400,000 members have achieved this level. For over 30 years, Benzel has contributed to the field of cybersecurity with research that provides experimental capabilities for researchers developing new cybersecurity technologies. She has also contributed greatly to IEEE since she became a member in 1982.

"Benzel is very deserving of being a senior member because she has been an important influence in the field for decades," said Rob Cunningham, an adjunct professor of cybersecurity at Carnegie Mellon University and an IEEE fellow who knows Benzel from decades of working together in the field of cybersecurity. "In addition to her work in the area of testing and validation of computer security, she has also helped to assemble workshops and conferences through IEEE on a wide range of topics in the field. This allowed communication and collaboration on important ideas and I believe this work has had broad impacts on the field."

Cunningham nominated Benzel for the prestigious honor.

Benzel's research interests are primarily in cybersecurity experimentation, a field that involves developing ways to conduct experiments that test the effectiveness of existing and new security technologies.

"Establishing that a computer system is secure or that a new cybersecurity technology is effective is challenging," Benzel said. Just because a network hasn't been hacked or breached, doesn't mean it's fully secure. "Our work is focused on developing the methods and techniques to analyze security systems in a scientific, hypothesis-driven, repeatable way," she added.

As technology continues to advance, there is an increased need for security systems that are effective in a wide variety of technologies. Security systems are embedded in homes, in cars, on computer networks and the Internet, and in medical and manufacturing technologies. In her research, Benzel looks to the future and constantly works to develop new experimentation techniques that can apply to new technologies.

"My research enables researchers to better understand and evaluate cybersecurity across a very broad set of technologies," Benzel said. "We focus on helping researchers so we are early in the development life cycle of new cybersecurity technologies for computing systems of all sorts."

In addition to the research breakthroughs in her field, Benzel has a long history of contributions to IEEE. She has served in various roles on the organizing committees of the IEEE Security and Privacy Conferences since 1988. She served as the vice chair and chair of the IEEE Computer Society Technical Committee on Security and Privacy from 1992 to 1995 and served as its treasurer from 2009 to 2012. Benzel has also been an associate editor-in-chief for IEEE Security and Privacy Magazine for more than a decade.

In her current role as the director of the Networking and Cybersecurity Division at ISI, Benzel leads and manages the division and acts as a spokesperson in representing projects to funding agencies. She also mentors junior researchers as they present their work and oversees the finances of the division.