Gene Spafford

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Eugene Howard Spafford
Balding white male with grey beard, wearing a black suitcoat, pink shirt, and patterned bow tie, standing with hands clasped.
Eugene Spafford speaks on computer security at Linux Forum 2000 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Born1956 (age 65–66)
Rochester, NY
Other namesSpaf
CitizenshipUnited States
EducationThe College at Brockport, State University of New York (B.A.)
Georgia Institute of Technology (M.S., Ph.D.)
AwardsSee section below
Scientific career
FieldsComputer science
Computer security
InstitutionsPurdue University
Notable studentsDan Farmer, Gene Kim

Eugene Howard Spafford (born 1956), known as Spaf, is an American professor of computer science at Purdue University and a computer security expert.

Spafford serves as an advisor to U.S. government agencies and corporations. In 1998, he founded and was the first director of the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS) at Purdue University.


Education and early career[edit]

Spafford attended the State University of New York at Brockport, graduating with a double major in mathematics and computer science in three years. He then attended the School of Information and Computer Sciences (now the College of Computing) at the Georgia Institute of Technology. He received his Master of Science (M.S.) in 1981, and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in 1986, for his design and implementation of the kernel of the original Clouds distributed operating system.[1]

During the formative years of the Internet, Spafford made significant contributions to establishing semi-formal processes to organize and manage Usenet, then the primary channel of communication between users, and to defining the standards of behavior governing its use.[2][3] Spafford initiated the Phage List as a response to the Morris Worm, one of the earliest computer worms.[4][5]

Computer science at Purdue[edit]

Spafford has served on the faculty at Purdue University in Indiana since 1987, and is a full professor of computer science. He is executive director emeritus of Purdue's Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS), and founded its predecessor, the COAST Laboratory. He has stated that his research interests have focused on "the prevention, detection, and remediation of information system failures and misuse, with an emphasis on applied information security. This has included research in fault tolerance, software testing and debugging, intrusion detection, software forensics, and security policies."

Spafford wrote or co-authored four books on computer and computer security, including Practical Unix and Internet Security for O'Reilly Media, and over 150 research papers, chapters, and monographs. In 1996, he received the Award of Distinguished Technical Communication from the Society for Technical Communication for Practical Unix and Internet Security.

As a PhD advisor, Spafford supervised development of the Open Source Tripwire tool coded by his student Gene Kim. Spafford was the chief external technical advisor to the company Tripwire during their first few years. He was also graduate advisor to Dan Farmer who coded the freeware Computer Oracle and Password System (COPS) tool.

In 2009, Spafford discussed on C-SPAN an article in The New York Times that looked at how the Internet had been a conduit for many types of cybercrime.[6][7]

Recent work from Spafford has shown how to deceive adversaries and thus make computing systems more secure,[8] drawing on his multi-disciplinary expertise in information security and psychology.[9]

Spafford is on the Board of Directors of the Computing Research Association and is the former chairperson of the Association for Computing Machinery's (ACM) US Public Policy Committee.[10] He was a member of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee from 2003 to 2005[11] and an advisor to the National Science Foundation (NSF). Spaf is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1999) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2020).

Selected honors and awards[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Spafford, Eugene H. (2013-11-12). "Oral history interview with Eugene H. Spafford". Charles Babbage Institute (Interview). Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota. Retrieved 2020-04-12.
  2. ^ "Usenet: The Great Renaming [FAQ]: 1985–1988". Archived from the original on 2002-10-12. Retrieved 2020-04-12. Originally organized by Gene Spafford in 1983, the backbone was formalized by Spaf after the Great Renaming.
  3. ^ "Mary Ann Horton, Ph.D.: Professional Profile". Archived from the original on 2006-07-09. Retrieved 2020-04-12. ... 1980-1987 ... Designed Usenet Backbone, recruited and led the "Backbone Cabal" of key Usenet site administrators.
  4. ^ "The Phage List". Security Digest. Retrieved 5 October 2022.
  5. ^ "Spafford's analysis of the Morris worm". Retrieved 5 October 2022.
  6. ^ "The Internet and Cyber-Security". C-SPAN. Purdue University: National Cable Satellite Corporation. 2009-02-21.
  7. ^ Markoff, John (2009-02-14). "Do We Need a New Internet?". The New York Times.
  8. ^ "Deceiving the deceivers: professor employs false fronts, data to fool hackers". Purdue 150th. 2019-01-30. Retrieved 2021-06-25.
  9. ^ "NSF Award Search: Award # 1548114 - EAGER: Exploring the Use of Deception to Enhance Cyber Security". Retrieved 2021-06-25.
  10. ^ "ACM US Technology Policy Committee". Retrieved 5 October 2022.
  11. ^ "President's Information Technology Advisory Committee – Archive". Retrieved 2011-10-03.
  12. ^ "Spafford Receives ACM President's Award". Spafford Receives ACM President's Award. Purdue University. 2007-04-06. Archived from the original on 2015-09-14. Retrieved 2015-01-30.
  13. ^ "National Cybersecurity Hall of Fame". Retrieved 2020-04-12.
  14. ^ "Kristian Beckman and Yves Deswarte Awards". IFIP TC-11. International Federation for Information Processing. Retrieved 2020-04-12.
  15. ^ "Honorary appointments - The University of Nottingham". Retrieved 2022-07-21.

External links[edit]