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 64–65)
Rochester, NY
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), nicknamed Spaf,[1] is an American professor of computer science at Purdue University and a leading computer security expert.[2]

A historically significant Internet figure, he is renowned for first analyzing the Morris Worm, one of the earliest computer worms, and his role in the Usenet backbone cabal,[3] although his role as founder has also been claimed by Mary Ann Horton.[4] Spafford was a member of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee 2003-2005,[5] has been an advisor to the National Science Foundation (NSF), and serves as an advisor to over a dozen other government agencies and major corporations.


Education and early career[edit]

Spafford attended The College at Brockport, State University of New York completing a double Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in both mathematics and computer science in 3 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.[6]

During the early 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.

Recent work[edit]

At Purdue, Spafford has a joint appointment as a professor of computer science and as professor of electrical and computer engineering, where he has served on the faculty since 1987. He is also a professor of philosophy (courtesy), and a professor of communication (courtesy). He is also Executive Director of Purdue's Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security (CERIAS), and was the founder and director of COAST Laboratory, which preceded CERIAS.

He is involved in many professional associations and activities outside of Purdue, including serving on the Board of Directors of the Computing Research Association and as co-chairperson of the Association for Computing Machinery's (ACM) US Public Policy Committee. He serves on several advisory and editorial boards and is internationally known for his writing, research, and speaking on issues of security and ethics. Spafford has authored or co-authored four books on computer and computer security, including Practical Unix and Internet Security for O'Reilly Media, and over 100 research papers, chapters, and monographs.

Spafford 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."

Among notable software designed and/or supervised by Spafford include the Open Source Tripwire tool coded by his student Gene Kim (Spafford was later the chief external technical advisor to the company Tripwire during their first few years), and the freeware Computer Oracle and Password System (COPS) tool coded by his student Dan Farmer. He initiated the Phage List as a response to the Morris Worm. Some of his research also helped inspire the creation of the Mitre Corporation CVE service and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) ICAT database. Research by other graduate students of his has resulted in tools for software testing and debugging, distributed processing, cyber forensics, firewalls, intrusion detection, auditing, and network traceback.

Spafford discussed on Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network (C-SPAN) in 2009, a then-recent article in The New York Times that looked at how the Internet had been a conduit for many types of cybercrime.[7][8]

Recent work from Spafford has shown how to use deception to deceive adversaries and thus make computing systems more secure.[9] This work draws on multi-disciplinary expertise in security and psychology and has been funded by the National Science Foundation.[10]

Selected honors and awards[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Spaf's Home Page". CERIAS. Purdue University. Retrieved 2020-04-12.
  2. ^ "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.
  3. ^ "Usenet: The Great Renaming [FAQ]: 1985–1988". Archived from the original on 2002-10-12. Retrieved 2020-04-12. Orginially organized by Gene Spafford in 1983, the backbone was formalized by Spaf after the Great Renaming.
  4. ^ "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.
  5. ^ "President's Information Technology Advisory Committee – Archive". Retrieved 2011-10-03.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ "The Internet and Cyber-Security". C-SPAN. Purdue University: National Cable Satellite Corporation. 2009-02-21.
  8. ^ Markoff, John (2009-02-14). "Do We Need a New Internet?". The New York Times.
  9. ^ "Deceiving the deceivers: professor employs false fronts, data to fool hackers". Purdue 150th. 2019-01-30. Retrieved 2021-06-25.
  10. ^ "NSF Award Search: Award # 1548114 - EAGER: Exploring the Use of Deception to Enhance Cyber Security". Retrieved 2021-06-25.
  11. ^ Spafford, Eugene (2011-09-25). "Abridged Vita: Eugene H. Spafford" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-10-03.
  12. ^ "National Cybersecurity Hall of Fame". Retrieved 2020-04-12.
  13. ^ "Kristian Beckman and Yves Deswarte Awards". IFIP TC-11. International Federation for Information Processing. Retrieved 2020-04-12.

External links[edit]