The last few weeks have been busy ones for Whitfield Diffie and Susan Landau, coauthors of the landmark book on wiretapping and crypotgraphy Privacy on the Line.
On March 1, Diffie (right, photo by Rod Searcey) shared the Association of Computing Machinery’s 2015 A.M. Turing Award with Stanford’s Martin Hellman (at left in the photo). Often called the “Nobel of computing,” the award recognizes lasting contributions to computing and comes with a $1 million prize, funded by Google. Diffie and Hellman were honored for the development of public-key cryptography and digital signatures, which the ACM called “the foundation for most regularly-used security protocols on the Internet today.” Those innovations regularly underlie massive amounts of communication on the Internet, as well as trillions of dollars of financial transactions. The security and political issues surrounding cryptography were explored at length in Privacy on the Line, which was originally published in 1998 and revised and updated in 2007.
On the same day the Turing Award was announced, Landau (left), a professor of cybersecurity policy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, was testifying at a congressional hearing on cryptography. The hearings before the House Judiciary Committee on “The Encryption Tightrope: Balancing Americans’ Security and Privacy,” were prompted by Apple’s refusal to help the NSA unlock the iPhone of one of the shooters at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California. During an interview earlier this week on NPR, she argued that a better solution would be to simultaneously make devices more secure, while also funding the FBI’s development of better investigative tools, as she told All Things Considered host Ari Shaprio:
NPR: If Apple giving in to the FBI in this case would be, as you argue, a security risk, why is the FBI having technology to access to the same information less of a risk?
SL: We know that the Chinese, the Russians, lots of our opponents are building this technology, too. Each time Apple improves the quality of its security, our opponents have to improve their (tools). So the FBI developing it is of course a security risk that Apple is going to counter. But it’s less of a security risk than if Apple has it, where it’s a central point for opponents to get into and then break phones that they target.
Recognition of, and analysis of, issues that will only grow more important in the future.