Fan Zhang

Assistant Professor

Secure Decentralized Systems Lab

The mission of Secure Decentralized Systems Lab is to build the next-gen computing infrastructure with security, privacy, and resiliency as first-order goals. We focus on two key enabling techniques: decentralized ledgers (aka blockchains) and Trusted Execution Environments (TEEs). Our approach combines methods from applied cryptography, computer systems, distributed computing, mechanism design, etc., to securely scale up their performance, enable broad applications, and combat novel security problems arising in new applications.

Decentralized ledgers is a new kind of global-scale computing infrastructure, just like the cloud, but with completely different security/performance characteristics. My research studies how to make the infrastructure more secure and robust, how to securely improve its performance and extend its functionality, and how to combat the unique security problems that arise in novel applications.

Trusted Execution Environments (TEEs) are both liked and hated by security researchers (me included) — their performance can be orders-of-magnitude better than cryptographic machinery for many tasks, but they lack formal guarantees and are often vulnerable to side channels. Nonetheless, all major chip manufacturers (Intel, AMD, Nvidia, Apple, etc) are investing in TEEs. My research aims to find ways to take advantage of TEE’s fast performance with formal and strong security guarantees.

Select Projects

Here are some projects/topics I’ve worked on:

Industry adoption

My research has led to direct industry adoption. Ekiden is used in Oasis Labs’ products. Town Crier and DECO have been licensed to Chainlink (news, news). In my separate capacity, I’m a faculty advisor to Chainlink.

Acknowledgements

My research is currently supported by grants from Ethereum Foundation and NSF.