Stjepan Picek

Stjepan Picek
How can we maintain the security and privacy of AI?
Stjepan Picek
Cyber Security and AI
Current role
Associate Professor

Today, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can no longer be seen apart from cyber security. As of September 2023, a new Master's specialisation about digital security combined with AI will start at Radboud University. Stjepan Picek is the coordinator of this programme. He informs us about the content of this new study and tells us why the world needs more experts in this area.

Stjepan Picek finished his double Ph.D. on the topic of cyber security and AI (at Radboud University and the University of Zagreb, Croatia). Since October 2021, he has been working as an Associate Professor at Radboud University.

New Master's specialisation

According to Stjepan Picek, Radboud is a well-recognized University in the cyber security domain. Nowadays, the topics of AI and digital security are more important than ever. There is much artificial intelligence in modern cyber security. However, the current curriculum at Radboud University is still oriented towards either cyber security or AI. Stjepan Picek: ‘At this moment, students pick up some bits and bytes of AI, but they mainly focus on cybersecurity.

On the contrary, there is a strong AI department here, based on Machine Learning. They focus on AI and less on security. Therefore, it became reasonable to offer the students the best of both worlds. In our new Master’s specialisation, we combine a selection of courses in AI and cyber security. We encourage the student to approach both topics from a different angle.’ Stjepan Picek is now working hard on the curriculum, which will start simultaneously with the new academic year.

Cyber security and AI: always together

Cyber security is a huge domain consisting, for example, of systems security, network security, and cryptography, which is a speciality at Radboud University. Stjepan Picek: ‘Cyber security cannot exist without AI any more. Anti-malware, antivirus, anti-spam: it is all about those two. In the past, when there was a threat trying to infect computers, it was relatively easy to recognise and diminish. Nowadays, the virus and other threats are getting smarter and changing continuously because of AI. The most powerful attacks are now made by AI. Many of the things we do here are based on offensive security. This means that we evaluate our security of systems by mounting the most powerful attacks possible. And those powerful attacks are also mostly based on Artificial Intelligence.’

Stjepan Picek with a student

Why is the new Master’s specialisation so important?

‘I’m happy about the new programme, we listened to the students’ wishes, and they can start exploring new trends and threats. When they finish the study, the students will be experts in an extremely important domain. Both research and industry wise.’ Universities and companies are always looking for human knowledge in this technological and innovative area.

Thereby, Stjepan Picek sees an interesting change in focus: ‘Nowadays it is not only about what AI can do for cyber security, but also what cyber security can do for AI. AI is used everywhere, and in all of those places security is important. For example, in hospitals. AI is used in treatments, the challenge is how to make sure the data are correct, and the patients are secure and safe. Thus, the new question is: how can we maintain the security and privacy of AI? This will be one of the topics we will be teaching, and we are the first university in The Netherlands that integrates this in its curriculum.’

This interview was first published on TechGelderland. Images: Linda Verweij.