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Provost Fellow Ranjan Pal Takes an Interdisciplinary Approach to Investigating Cyber Insurance

Provost Fellow Ranjan Pal Takes an Interdisciplinary Approach to the Investigation of Cyber Insurance
By Lauren Evashenk

We live in a digital world, and our lives are replete with the evidence. On a regular day, we check email, browse the Internet, engage on social media sites, and open mobile apps for practically every aspect of our lives. Yet, how many of us routinely ponder the vulnerability created by our reliance on cyberspace?

USC Graduate School funded Provost Fellow, Ranjan Pal, has spent his graduate career identifying our cyber risks, and, more importantly, crafting security responses to these hazards. A Ph.D student in Computer Science, Pal investigates the economics of improving network security using analytical tools from economics, computer science and mathematics.

When thinking about computer security, antivirus products come to mind. Although such products are practically our only barriers of defense against cyber threats to the virtual representations of our characters, identities, and personal information, Pal notes that few people purchase the best software because of the ease of downloading free versions. Furthermore, those who do pay full-price for the top products often do not know how to properly use the full features. As a consequence, the antivirus software many rely on fail to address and remove all the threats we encounter in our daily lives.

Through his research on the economics of information security, Pal seeks to mitigate the barriers to proper cyber security. Specifically, Pal’s focus is incentives alignment among the various parties involved in the cyber insurance market. The cyber insurance market, Pal argues, is necessary to protect users as more of our lives move to the digital realm. However, Pal also asserts that in order for the cyber insurance market to blossom and function effectively and efficiently, the interests of regulatory agencies, cyber insurance companies, security product vendors, network users, and the network at large must be balanced. As the market currently exists, it is not feasible to provide individual users with cyber insurance policies.

Under the guidance of Viterbi School of Engineering faculty mentors Konstantinos Psounis, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and (jointly) Computer Science, and Leana Golubchik, Professor of Computer Science and (jointly) Electrical Engineering, Pal is taking an interdisciplinary approach and using mathematical techniques to create solutions for balancing market interests. He is also collaborating with Dr. Pan Hui, who is jointly associated with Deutsch Telekom (T-Labs) in Germany, and HKUST in Hong Kong.

Currently in the 5th year of his doctoral work, Pal plans to graduate by the end of the year. Before continuing in academia, Pal hopes to work in an industry research lab to bring his doctoral research to real industry projects, and ultimately make an impact in regular people’s lives through enhanced cyber security and the availability of cyber insurance.

Pal thanks his advisors, Drs. Golubchik and Psounis, for giving him the freedom and support to work on the research he loves.