Close-ups

Riccardo Focardi
Informatics

Let’s talk about you: what is your background, what do you teach, and what are your research interests?
I am from Bologna and, since I was a child, I have always loved logic and mathematics. When my father bought an Apple II (yes, I am from the pre-digital era!) I realised that my true passion was informatics. At Ca' Foscari I teach Operating Systems and Computer Security, which is also my main area of research.

What was your academic career?
I graduated and did my PhD in Informatics in Bologna with a thesis on formal methods for computer security, a subject that was growing rapidly in those years and that led me to win, very young, back in 1996, a researcher position right here at Ca' Foscari. I remember very fondly the small group of professors at that time and the very first informatics graduates at Ca' Foscari. When I started working I got lost in Venice and asked repeatedly and unsuccessfully where 'Dorsoduro 3246' was, and had to insist on getting into the offices because they thought I was a student! Venice was making fun of me and, perhaps, it was at that very moment that I became inseparably bound to the lagoon.

What were your greatest professional satisfactions?
My first great satisfaction was chairing the programme committee of the IEEE Computer Security Foundation Symposium in Pacific Grove, California, a landmark event in my research area, which I then 'took' to the island of San Servolo for two consecutive years. Writing impactful research papers gave me great satisfaction. For example: the work on applied cryptography that appeared in the New York Times, from which I founded my first spin-off, Cryptosense; the work on Java cryptography that convinced Oracle to change its key protection mechanisms; and the latest work on Web security that appeared in Wired. I recently founded a second spin-off, 10Sec, which offers innovative security solutions for the IoT world.

Which is the area you have always wanted to be involved in but have not yet had the opportunity to explore?
I am passionate about all aspects of informatics. One area that I am very curious about, and have started to explore a little bit, is artificial intelligence. I would like to explore it, especially neural networks and how they relate to human thinking and how our brains work.

Can you offer any advice to researchers in the early stages of their career?
I would say put passion and curiosity before money. In our field, bright young people have endless job opportunities, with very high salaries. Of course there are well-paid, challenging and rewarding jobs, but the chance to study a new problem, tackle it and solve it, improving the state of the art is something unique and exciting.

Last update: 27/02/2024