Zachary N J Peterson

Curriculum Vitae

Brief Biography

Zachary Peterson is an Assistant Professor in the Computer Science Department in the College of Engineering at the California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) in San Luis Obispo, CA.  He is also a research associate of the Storage Systems Research Center (SSRC) at the University of California, Santa Cruz and the Security and Privacy Applied Research Lab (SPAR) at the Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute.

His general academic interests are in building solutions to compelling interdisciplinary problems, particularly those at the confluence of secure storage systems, applied cryptography, law, and policy.

He is also very interested in engaging students of all ages in science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) disciplines, and in particular, computer security and privacy. He is currently developing non-digital board and card games that are designed to remove traditional barriers associated with using a computer, improve security literacy and introduce students to new career paths related to security and engineering.  His first game, [d0x3d!], introduces network security concepts, terminology and cooperative and adversarial thinking to high school and undergraduate students.

Some of his recent research activities include developing efficient proofs of possession and proofs of physical location and jurisdiction of data stored in the cloud.

He is the developer of the ext3cow file system.  Ext3cow is a versioning file system based on ext3 that provides a unique time-shifting interface to past data. It has been used as a foundation for technologies to understand data provenance, improve security and achieve legislative compliance, including: secure deletion, authenticated encryption, incremental authentication and non-repudiation, and role-based access control.  Ext3cow has been featured on Slashdot and digg.

Past research includes data placement for a copy-on-write file system, file system security, and data placement and scheduling for MEMS-based storage devices.

Zachary holds a PhD in Computer Science earned at The Johns Hopkins University in 2006, where he worked with his advisor, Prof. Randal Burns, and as a member of the Hopkins Storage Systems Lab.  He formerly served as an Assistant Professor of Computer Science at the Naval Postgraduate School, an Assistant Research Scientist in the Computer Science Department at The Johns Hopkins University and as an Adjunct Lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at McDaniel College.

Before his academic career, Zachary worked as a Senior Security Analyst and Director of the Technology Research and Intellectual Property Services (TRIPS) division at Independent Security Evaluators (ISE), a boutique computer security consulting firm in Baltimore, MD. There, he was often engaged as an expert witness and consultant in technology and intellectual property litigation, including patent and copyright infringement litigation, anti-piracy cases and DMCA violations.

Zachary holds a BS in Computer Engineering, from the University of California, Santa Cruz, an MS in Computer Science from the Baskin School of Engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz, (advisor: Prof. Darrell Long), and an MS in Security Informatics from the Information Security Institute at The Johns Hopkins University (advisor: Prof. Avi Rubin).

I’m also pleased to be serving on the Program Committees for USENIX Security 15, CSET 15, RAID 15, and ASIACCS 15.


Our paper on a deniable, encrypted file system for log-structure storage (especially solid-state drives) will appear at NDSS 15.

I’ve been awarded an NSF Secure and Trustworthy Cyberspace Education (SaTC EDU) grant for building and evaluating a computer security course for first-year CS students using alternate reality games. Very excited about this work. You can see some of my other work on games for security education here.

I am the organizer of the USENIX Summit on Gaming, Games and Gamification in Security Education (3GSE), a workshop designed to bring together educators and game designers working in the growing field of digital & non-digital games for security education. You can find last year’s summit program here.

We’ll be holding another 3GSE in 2015.