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. 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 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 research activities include developing deniable encryption for solid-state storage, efficient proofs of possession, and proofs of physical location and jurisdiction of data stored in the cloud.  Past research includes the ext3cow versioning file system, 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 consultant at Independent Security Evaluators (ISE), a boutique computer security 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.


I’ll be leading the cybersecurity track at Cal Poly’s EPIC Summer Camp, having high school juniors and seniors explore computer security concepts through kinesthetic and digital games.

Our experiences on using narrative-driven alternate reality security games for first-year CS students will be appearing at CSET 2015. You can see some of my other work on games for security education here.

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

I am the founder 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.

We’ll be holding another 3GSE in 2015. Program is here.