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Claudio Orlandi – New professor of cryptology at Department of Computer Science, Aarhus University

Claudio did not expect to become a professor of cryptology at the age of 39 at Aarhus University, when he started his career as an engineering student in Florence. The interest only emerged when he took an elective subject in cryptology at the maths department during his studies. He became so interested in the topic that he contacted some of the researchers at the engineering programme who worked with security and began to get involved in projects with them in connection with his Bachelor's project. It was especially the topic of Zero-Knowledge Proofs, that interested him, and the more he dived into the topic, the more often he came across Professor Ivan Damgård's name.

Therefore, in 2007, Claudio made a quick decision to apply for an Erasmus scholarship to write his  Master's thesis with Ivan Damgård at Aarhus University. Ivan agreed and it was the start of Claudio’s career at Department of Computer Science, AU. He was sure that, after six months as an Erasmus student, he would go back to Florence, but that was not the case. He was encouraged to apply for a PhD and now, after 16 years, Aarhus is still his home, where he lives with his wife and their two children.

The fascination of cryptology

"The most fascinating thing about cryptology is that it enables us to solve security problems that seem impossible to solve. Things that you do not think can be solved can be done, and we are constantly being challenged on what is possible. "

One of the research areas that Claudio is working on, and which is helping solving difficult problems for the society, is Public-Key Cryptography, which in short is a method for encrypting or signing data with two sets of keys: a public one, which is accessible to everyone and a private key. Data encrypted with the public key can only be decrypted with the private key. 

Claudio explains: "If two people wish to speak a secret language in front of others to prevent them from listening, they can first go into a private room and agree on how this secret language should sound, and then again go back to the room where the others are and use this secret language. This is easy, and no one will be able to understand what they are talking about. The amazing thing about Public-Key Cryptography is that it allows to agree on the rules of the secret language and speak it in front of the others, without allowing them to understand what we are talking about. "

Another topic within the same area that fascinates Claudio is, Secure Multiparty Computation.

"If two people want to find out who has the most money in the bank, but neither of the two wants to tell the other how much they have, then cryptology can solve it by calculating the result without any of them having to reveal their own data to get the correct result".

The open research environment

The open research environment in  the Cryptography and Security research group at Department of Computer Science has had and still have a huge impact on Claudio’s career. Already as a Master’s thesis student, he was offered an office space in the same corridor as the researchers. This meant that he became part of the social and research environment in the group. He had lunch and went to the Friday bar with the PhD students and quite naturally he participated in academic discussions while having coffee in the kitchen.

Claudio explains: "We have a really good relationship with each other, and I enjoy the way we work together. We have a lot of discussions. People are always happy to hear about what the others are working on and are happy to discuss new ideas. We can achieve much more working together, combining the different skills and expertise of each group member. It is very satisfying to work in a group where people are open about their research. "

Visions for the future

"It will be exciting to see, if some of the things we are working on right now will change the world in five, ten or fifteen years. It will be interesting to see what will trickle down from the most theoretical shelf to the practical shelf. In a few years' time, something that has started as a theoretical study may solve a practical problem that we are just not aware of yet".

One example is research within blockchain and bitcoin. Some of the theoretical research and the techniques within blockchain and bitcoin that the computer scientists delved into ten or fifteen years ago, have now become highly relevant, because there has been an explosion of interest in blockchain. Because of that many companies have become interested in getting hold of the researchers and the knowledge they have within this research field.

This interest in blockchain has, among other things, resulted in the establishment of the Concordium Blockchain Research Centre at Aarhus University, the aim of which is to provide the basic research needed to build blockchain technology that is provably secure.

"We were surprised to see the development of the blockchain technology. When I first heard about Bitcoin, I thought that there was something in Bitcoin that was really exciting from a technological perspective. Once again, it sounded like something that should be impossible, but it turned out not to be. I think that ten years ago, many of the researchers who conducted research within cryptology  did not foresee how big cryptocurrency would become. "

Some of the things that Claudio foresees will be significant in the near future, is the interplay between cryptology and artificial intelligence, for example how we can protect the data of users using advanced machine learning algorithms. ChatGPT is an example where AI can help users in writing texts or solving problems, and many are speculating that these models will have a huge impact in how we will use the internet in the future.  However, every time users are using AI tools they might be revealing potentially private data to the owners of the AI models.  It will be interesting to see how it is possible to combine cryptography and AI in order to gain the benefit of AI models without having to sacrifice the privacy of users’ data. Claudio’s research, in particular topics like Secure Multiparty Computation, Zero-Knowledge Protocols and Privacy-Enhancing Technologies can help with these challenges.

Another challenge for the future is to develop cryptographic algorithms that are secure against quantum-computer, also known as “Post-Quantum Cryptography”.


As Claudio sees it, the three years of the Bachelor's degree are the first three floors of a larger building, which is being built. These are the years where students are introduced to general topics. He teaches the bachelor course: Distributed Systems and Security.

In addition to the Bachelor's course, Claudio also teaches Crytographic Computing at Master's degree level. He refers to the course as his baby, as he has developed it during his postdoc at AU, and it is very close to his own field of research. In the beginning, there were about ten students who attended the course, but last year, surprisingly, there were around 45 students, so they had to find a bigger room.

"In Aarhus, there are several companies that work with cutting-edge topics in cryptography, so there are a lot of the students that I teach at the Master's degree level who, during their studies or afterwards find jobs in one of these companies."

These are companies with an insatiable need for specialists in IT security.

Congratulations on your appointment, Claudio! We look forward to following you and your research in the future!


Born 1983.

Born in Florence in Italy and moved to Denmark in 2007 to specialise in cryptology

High-school graduate from ITI Leonardo Da Vinci in Florence, Italy

2007 Master in Computer Engineering from Università degli Studi di Firenze

2011 PhD from Department of Computer Science, Aarhus University, with Ivan Damgård and Jesper Buus Nielsen as Supervisors

2011-2012 Postdoc, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

2012-2014 Postdoc, Department of Computer Science, Aarhus University

2014 Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science, Aarhus University,

2023 Professor, Department of Computer Science, Aarhus University