Simson Garfinkel

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Not to be confused with Simon and Garfunkel.
Simson Leon Garfinkel
Simson Garfinkel 150.png
(By Simson L. Garfinkel)
Born 1965 (age 51–52)
Nationality United States
Fields Computer science
Institutions US Census Bureau
Alma mater MIT (SB, SB, SB 1983)
Columbia University (MS 1988)
MIT (PhD 2005)
Doctoral advisor David D. Clark
Known for UNIX-HATERS Handbook
Cross-Drive Analysis
Database Nation
Practical UNIX and Internet Security
Notable awards Department of Defense Value Engineering Achievement Award
Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award

Simson L. Garfinkel (born 1965), is the Chief of the US Census Bureau's Center for Disclosure Avoidance Research in Suitland, Maryland.[1]

Garfinkel was formerly a computer scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (2015-2017) and, prior to that, an associate professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California (2006-2015). Garfinkel is regarded as a leader in the fields of digital forensics and usable security. In addition to his research, Garfinkel is a journalist, an entrepreneur, and an inventor; his work in is generally concerned with computer security, privacy, and information technology.

Garfinkel is the author or co-author of 15 books, and the author of more than a thousand articles.[2] He is a contributing writer for Technology Review[3] and has written as a freelancer for many publications including Wired magazine, The Boston Globe, Privacy Journal and CSO Magazine. His work for CSO Magazine earned him five regional and national journalism awards, including the Jesse H. Neal Business Journalism Awards in 2003 and 2004.[4]

As an entrepreneur, Garfinkel founded Vineyard.NET, an Internet service provider on Martha's Vineyard, and Sandstorm Enterprises, a computer security firm that develops advanced computer forensic tools used by businesses and governments to audit their systems. Garfinkel holds six patents,[5] mostly in the field of computer security.

Garfinkel obtained three SB degrees from MIT in 1987; a MS in journalism from Columbia University in 1988; and a PhD in computer science from MIT in 2005. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Research on Computation and Society at Harvard University from September 2005 through August 2008.[6] In 2012 he was named a Fellow of the ACM.[7] Today Garfinkel lives in Arlington, Virginia.


Garfinkel's early research was in the field of optical storage. While he was an undergraduate at the MIT Media Laboratory Garfinkel developed CDFS, the first file system for write-once optical disk systems.[8] During the summer of 1987 he worked at Brown University's IRIS Project, where he developed a server allowing CDROMs to be shared over a network simultaneously by multiple workstations.[9]

In 1991, while a senior editor at NeXTWORLD magazine, Garfinkel created an address book program for the NeXT Computer called SBook.[10] One of SBook's most popular features was a search field that performed a full-text search of all of the records in the address book with each keypress. This kind of search is now standard on many computer programs, including Apple's Mail application and Mozilla Thunderbird. It is believed that SBook was the first program to incorporate this kind of search technology.

In 1995, Garfinkel moved to Martha's Vineyard and started Vineyard.NET, the Vineyard's first Internet Service Provider. Vineyard.NET was bought by Broadband2Wireless, a wireless ISP, in 2000. The company went bankrupt in September 2001,[11] and Garfinkel bought Vineyard.NET back from the bankruptcy court.

In 2003, Garfinkel and Abhi Shelat published an article in IEEE Security & Privacy Magazine reporting on an experiment in which they purchased 158 used hard drives from a variety of sources and checked to see whether they still contained readable data. Roughly one third of the drives appeared to have information that was highly confidential and should have been erased prior to the drive's resale.

In 2006, Garfinkel introduced cross-drive analysis, an unsupervised machine learning algorithm for automatically reconstructing social networks from hard drives and other kinds of data carrying devices that are likely to contain pseudo-unique information.[12]

In September 2006, Garfinkel joined the faculty of the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) in Monterey, California, as an associate professor of Computer Science.[13] He moved to Arlington, Virginia, in June 2010 to help NPS with its research aims in the National Capital Region. He transitioned to the National Institute of Standards and Technology in January 2015, and to the US Census Bureau in 2017.



Significant academic articles[edit]

Significant journalistic articles[edit]


  1. ^ "US Census Bureau Staff Roster" (PDF). 
  2. ^ Simson Garfinkel Bio,
  3. ^ "Staff List," Technology, July 7, 2008
  4. ^ [1] Archived September 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ U.S. Patent 7,779,032U.S. Patent 7,023,854U.S. Patent 6,993,661U.S. Patent 6,744,864U.S. Patent 6,678,270U.S. Patent 6,490,349
  6. ^ Harvard CRCS
  7. ^ Gold, Virginia. "2012 Fellows Hail from World's Leading Universities and Corporations". The Association for Computing Machinery. Retrieved Dec 11, 2012. Simson Garfinkel Naval Postgraduate School For contributions to digital forensics and to computer security education 
  8. ^ S. Garfinkel, "A file system for write once media, MIT Media Lab., Oct. 1986.
  9. ^ Designing a write-once file system (a general-purpose optical storage software technology), Dr. Dobb's Journal, 1991, Jan, pp. 78, 80, 82--26.
  10. ^ Garfinkel, Simson. "SBook is Simson Garfinkel's Address Book". Retrieved 2017.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  11. ^ "Broadband2Wireless files for bankruptcy". 2001-09-01. [dead link]
  12. ^ Garfinkel, S., "Forensic Feature Extraction and Cross-Drive Analysis," Digital Investigation, Volume 3, Supplement 1, September 2006, Pages 71--81.
  13. ^ [2] Archived November 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]