Crypto Pioneers Diffie and Hellman win Turing Award




Whitfield Diffie and Martin E. Hellman have been awarded the ACM’s AM Turing Award in 2015 for their contributions to modern cryptography. The two came up with the pubieke-key cryptography, which is the foundation, for example, PGP, SSL, SSH and IPsec.

Whitfield Diffie and Martin E. Hellman receive the Turing Award on June 11 awarded by the Association for Computing Machinery, and also get $ 1 million, made ​​available by Google. The ACM refers to the granting of the importance of the paper from 1976 by ​​Diffie and Hellman: New Directions in Cryptography .

In it, the two works the idea of ​​asymmetric keys out. Most techniques for deciphering hitherto symmetrical; for enciphering and deciphering the same key was used. Diffie and Hellman proposed a system in which the decryption key, which is the private key, different from the encryption key, or the public key. The latter can then be distributed and public are used to encrypt messages, after which the private key can decrypt the data.

The two thought of the use of a special mathematical one-way function, which is reversible only under special circumstances. Rivest, Shamir and Adleman Passover embroidered on it the system to multiply their primes. Reproduction is simple, but the dissolution of the prime factors is a time consuming task. This effect has become known as the RSA security and one of the first embodiments of a public-key exchange. Incidentally, would the GCHQ, the British intelligence service, already came up with the idea for public key exchange, but publish it until 1997.

The basis of the idea of ​​Diffie and Hellman is ubiquitous in today’s Internet age. Among others, the security of e-mail with PGP is based on the principle, but also the SSL protocol for encrypted connection between a client and a Web server. VPN technologies such as SSH and IPsec are also dependent on a public key infrastructure. “In 1976, Diffie and Hellman imagined a future where people would regularly communicate via electronic networks and would be vulnerable to theft or alteration of communication,” says Alexander L. Wolf, chairman of the ACM. “Now, after almost forty years, we see that their forecasts were remarkably prescient,” he adds.

Whitfield Diffie later went to work as chief security officer at Sun Microsystems, and Martin Hellman professor emeritus of electrical engineering at Stanford University is. Both were already awarded the ACM Paris Kanellakis price of the ACM in 1996, along with Leonard Adleman, Ralph Merkle, Ronald Rivest and Adi Shamir.

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