TU Wien Informatics

20 Years

Matteo Maffei Receives an ERC Advanced Grant for his Project BlockSec

  • 2024-06-12
  • Award
  • Cybersecurity
  • Security & Privacy
  • Excellence

We are thrilled to announce that Matteo Maffei, Head of the Research Unit Security and Privacy, has received an ERC Advanced Grant for his project BlockSec.

Matteo Maffei
Matteo Maffei

Matteo Maffei has received an ERC Advanced Grant for his project BlockSec!

We are thrilled to announce that Matteo Maffei, Head of the Research Unit Security and Privacy and co-director of CySec, has received an ERC Advanced Grant for his project BlockSec. BlockSec investigates the security of blockchain technologies, focusing on smart contracts in decentralized finance applications. The grant is endowed with two and a half million euros, with BlockSec set to run for five years.

Blockchains are a (relatively) new technology, but despite their tender age, they have already had a profound impact on society. While they are probably best known for their use in cryptocurrency, blockchains are also used in other realms of decentralized finance (DeFi), especially for smart contracts. Smart contracts are, in essence, a computer code that watches over specific actions, like a notary overseeing a transaction. All participants first agree on this code; the code then runs automatically and can no longer be rewritten. The key question, however, when it comes to these technologies is: how secure are they, really?

“In situations like this, it’s not enough for people to take a close look at the code and come to the conclusion that it’s probably secure after thinking about it for a long time,” says Matteo Maffei. “What you want is mathematical reliability; after all, a lot of people’s money is at stake. To give you a rough idea: Around 66.6 billion dollars are currently being processed in the Ethereum [ed.: a Cryptocurrency] ecosystem alone.”

Since the code for smart contracts is there to ensure the integrity and security of the contract, you want to make sure that the code does not contain any errors. This is where verification techniques come in: Verification techniques mathematically identify errors, which can then be closed to ensure the safety and robustness of blockchain applications. To improve the security of smart contracts, BlockSec takes a holistic approach, establishing an interdisciplinary research program that promises ground-breaking results at the intersection of cryptography, semantics, verification, and game theory.

About Matteo Maffei

Matteo Maffei completed his PhD at the University of Venice (Italy) in 2006. He then moved to Germany and worked as a postdoc at Saarland University. From 2008, he headed his own research group there, and in 2009, he received an Emmy Noether stipend from the Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft (DFG). In 2013, Matteo Maffei became an Associate Professor at Saarland University, and in 2016, he accepted a professorship at TU Wien. In 2018, he received an ERC Consolidator Grant to investigate browser security.

Matteo Maffei is now co-director of the Cybersecurity Center (CYSEC) at TU Wien and the coordinator of the doctoral college “Secure and Intelligent Human-Centric Digital Technologies” (SecInt). He also coordinates the FWF research project “Semantic and Cryptographic Foundations of Security and Privacy by Compositional Design” (SPyCoDe), is a key researcher at SBA Research, and is one of the heads of the Christian Doppler Laboratory for Blockchain Technologies for the Internet of Things.

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