© 2021 Louis Merlin

© 2021 Louis Merlin

To promote research and education in cyber-defence, EPFL and the Cyber-Defence (CYD) Campus launched in 2020 the rolling call for Master Thesis Fellowships – A Talent Program for Cyber-Defence Research.

This month we will introduce you to Louis Merlin, the recipient of the third CYD Master Thesis Fellowship. Louis is in the second year of his Master studies in the Section of Computer Science, at the HexHive Laboratory at EPFL.

  1. How did you find out about the CYD Fellowships and what motivated you to apply?

I found out about the fellowship program through an e-mail announcement that was circulated among the cybersecurity master students at EPFL. Upon discussion with my (at that time) potential master thesis advisor, we concluded that it would be a great opportunity for me to apply. Thanks to the fellowship my master project will last two additional months compared to a regular lab master thesis. This way I will be able to cover more ground within my research project. The opportunity to collaborate with the researchers of the CYD Campus also motivated me to apply.

  1. What is your CYD Fellowship project about?

My goal is to write a tool that takes a binary (i.e. the Firefox program) as an input and recovers some information that is useful for finding bugs in this program. More specifically, the data I am recovering is about type information and how it affects the compiled and stripped program. We will be able to use this output for easier debugging and to help in instrumentation for fuzzing.

  1. What are the advantages of conducting your master thesis project at the CYD Campus?

I have access to a great advisor at the CYD Campus, as well as to an amazing physical workplace in the EPFL Innovation Park (which I cannot use as much as I would have liked to due to the pandemic). In addition, I was able to expand the scope of my project due to the extended timeline.

  1. Did you as a child dream of working in cyber-defence?

I grew up with computers around me, and the hacker mentality has always fascinated me. However, my motivation to work in cybersecurity came much later, i.e. when I joined the Capture the Flag (CTF) team at EPFL, the polygl0ts, which participates in cybersecurity competitions worldwide.

  1. What is driving you to pursue research in cyber-defence?

Cybersecurity is a very important subject today, in research and geopolitics. There are always new things to learn, which I love as I am curious by nature.

  1. What is the most important lesson you have learned in your scientific career so far?

I do not have a long history of scientific career yet, but the most important lesson I have learned so far is the value of work sustained over time. I also feel that it is crucial to find your own work-life balance, and I am very grateful to have found a work style that fits me.

  1. What are you most proud of in your career to date?

I am very proud of my achievements at hackathons (1st place at Start Hack in Sankt Gallen in 2018 for a blockchain project with some of my best friends), as well as the performance of our Capture the Flag team at EPFL (we are currently in the top 100 teams worldwide and have fun most weekends solving security challenges).

  1. Outside the lab, what do you enjoy doing most?

I love playing music, reading, hanging out with my friends, and traveling with my girlfriend.

  1. What are your expectations about the CYD Fellowship?

I expect my master thesis to be even more fulfilling and interesting than it would have been without the fellowship! In addition, I would like to use this opportunity to meet accomplished cyber-defence researchers, who can enable me to apply my research to real-world problems.

  1. Could you share some tips with future applicants who are considering applying for the CYD Fellowships?

The application process is fairly straightforward. Thus, if you are motivated and have a suitable collaborative project with a supervisor, do not hesitate to apply!