Computer Security Pioneer Steve Bellovin First to Win Two USENIX Flame Awards

Bellovin shares his second lifetime award with Tufts’ Susan Landau and Georgetown’s Matt Blaze for their work on computer science, computer security, law, and public policy

Aug 10 2023 | By Holly Evarts
Steve Bellovin

New York, NY August 10, 2023 – Steven M. Bellovin, the Percy K. and Vida L. W. Hudson Professor of Computer Science at Columbia Engineering, has won his second USENIX Flame award, this one for his pioneering work on law and public policy issues related to security and privacy. The first researcher to win this prestigious lifetime achievement award twice, Bellovin shares the 2023 honor with his long-time colleagues Matt Blaze, Robert L. McDevitt, K.S.G., K.C.H.S. and Catherine H. McDevitt L.C.H.S. Professor of Computer Science and Law, Georgetown University, and Susan Landau, Bridge Professor in Cyber Security and Policy, Tufts University.

The three researchers are being recognized for the profound and lasting impact they have made on law and public policy through their groundbreaking research, their influential publications, and their dedication to advancing knowledge that informs public policy: “You have shown how knowledge of technology is vital for lawyers, judges, and legislators, and have been pioneers in applying your expertise in those domains.”

Scientists and technologists know things that lawyers, judges, and legislators do not. We have not just the right but the responsibility to speak up when a policy issue arises where we have specialized knowledge.

Steven M. Bellovin
The Percy K. and Vida L. W. Hudson Professor of Computer Science at Columbia Engineering

“Scientists and technologists know things that lawyers, judges, and legislators do not. We have not just the right but the responsibility to speak up when a policy issue arises where we have specialized knowledge,” said Bellovin, who is also a member of the Cybersecurity and Privacy Center of Columbia’s Data Science Institute and an affiliate faculty member at Columbia Law School. His groundbreaking work has impacted critical areas of computer security, including cryptography, network protocols, and privacy, and has led to the discovery of numerous vulnerabilities and the development of robust solutions, effectively safeguarding data and systems against cyber threats. 

Steve Bellovin, Matt Blaze, and Susan Landau

Steve Bellovin, Matt Blaze, and Susan Landau. Credit: USENIX

Known as the “Flame award,” the USENIX Lifetime Achievement Award was established in 1992 to recognize and celebrate singular contributions to the USENIX community in both intellectual achievement and service that are not recognized in any other forum. Among the many winners is Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who created the World Wide Web in 1990. (For a full list, see

Bellovin and Blaze have been working together since the mid-1990s, when both were at Bell Labs; Bellovin has worked with Landau since 2005. The three of them have jointly authored more than a dozen papers, with others planned or in progress.

“This is truly a well-deserved recognition for an extraordinary researcher,” said Columbia Engineering Dean Shih-Fu Chang. “Steve Bellovin’s pioneering work in computer security, his great skills in educating and mentoring students, both undergrad and graduate, and his transformative work in helping shape policy here and abroad, have had a profound impact on all of us, ensuring a safer and more secure digital landscape. We are honored to have him as a colleague and friend.”

Bellovin received his BA from Columbia University and his MS and PhD in Computer Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1979, while a grad student, he helped create Netnews, now more commonly known as USENET, as an experiment to create an electronic bulletin board to facilitate the posting and reading of news messages and notices. Today it has more than 10,000 discussion groups on a wide variety of subjects, tens of thousands of USENET sites, and many millions of participants. For this transformative platform, he and colleagues Tom Truscott and the late Jim Ellis were given the 1995 Flame award. 

Bellovin joined Columbia Engineering in 2005 after many years at Bell Labs and AT&T Labs Research, where he was an AT&T Fellow.  He has won numerous awards and honors, including election to the National Academy of Engineering (2001), the 2007 NIST/NSA National Computer Systems Security Award, and election to the Cybersecurity Hall of Fame (2014). He has served as Chief Technologist of the Federal Trade Commission, the Technology Scholar at the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, and was a member of the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Bellovin has also served on the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Advisory Committee and the Technical Guidelines Development Committee of the Election Assistance Commission.

He is the author of Thinking Security and the co-author of Firewalls and Internet Security: Repelling the Wily Hacker, and holds a number of patents on cryptographic and network protocols. He has served on many National Research Council study committees, including those on information systems trustworthiness, the privacy implications of authentication technologies, and cybersecurity research needs; he was also a member of the information technology subcommittee of an NRC study group on science versus terrorism. He was a member of the Internet Architecture Board from 1996-2002; he was co-director of the Security Area of the IETF from 2002 through 2004.

Bellovin, Blaze, and Landau were presented with the 2023 Flame award during USENIX Security '23 in Anaheim, CA, on August 9.

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