IBM Fellow Awarded Levchin Prize for Contributions to Cryptography

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We can all thank an elementary school teacher for keeping our electronic data safe and secure.

Growing up in Argentina, and studying in Israel, not far from where his career started at IBM’s Haifa Lab, IBM Fellow and cryptographer, Hugo M. Krawczyk cites his third-grade teacher as one of his first influences.

“She piqued my interest in math at a very young age and the rest, as they say, is history,” said Krawczyk. “I have been fortunate to have multiple influences in my life including my Ph.D. advisor, Oded Goldreich, and of course my great colleagues in IBM Research, who since the 1990s, have always inspired and supported me. It goes without saying that family also plays a huge part, but it all started in elementary school.”

He doesn’t know where his teacher is these days, but she certainly would be proud knowing that, due in part to her skills, she influenced the person responsible for developing some of the core cryptographic designs underlying central security protocols such as TLS/SSL and IPsec, the standard security technology used by billions of people every time we communicate with a computer using email, web browsing, messaging or voice over IP.

As if that wasn’t enough, Krawczyk also invented the key derivation technology hard coded into WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, TLS 1.3, Signal and more to keep the billions of our chats private and secure.

2018 Levchin Prize for Advancements in Real-World Cryptography

This achievement and many more are being recognized today at the sold out 2018 Real-World Crypto conference, in Zurich, Switzerland, by Internet entrepreneur Max Levchin, who has awarded Krawczyk with the Levchin Prize for Real-World Cryptography.

“The ongoing research and progress made in the world of cryptography should be continually recognized in today’s global climate,” said Levchin, CEO of fintech company, Affirm, and co-founder and former CTO of PayPal. “With constant developments in technology, we have to ensure internet security always measures up.”

More specifically, Krawczyk is recognized for his fundamental and lasting contributions to the theoretical and practical foundations of cryptography including pioneering designs to internet-wide security protocols and for major advances in encryption, authentication and privacy.

Krawczyk was selected by the Real-World Cryptography conference steering committee, which includes professors from Stanford University, University of Edinburgh, Microsoft Research, Royal Holloway University of London, Cornell Tech, University of Florida, and University of Bristol.

He has authored more than 100 publications with over 20,000 citations, including contributions to the theory and applications of pseudorandomness, zero-knowledge, key exchange, password authentication, threshold and proactive cryptosystems, and search on encrypted

Established in 2015, each year the Levchin Prize for Real-World Cryptography recognizes up to two groups or individuals who have made significant advances in the practice of cryptography and its use in real-world systems. In addition to a trophy modeled after the Jefferson Disk wheel cypher and a Cryptex (coined from the fictional writings of author Dan Brown’s “The DaVinci Code”), award recipients receive a cash prize of $10,000 each.

During his acceptance speech today Krawczyk said, “I’ve been very lucky to have lived through the internet revolution and to have had the opportunity to influence the security of the early standards that became crucial building blocks for the Internet. It was quite an extraordinary opportunity that as a theoretician I could do work that directly and almost immediately impacted the real world.

The true beauty of this in my eyes is the essential role theory has for  building cryptography that can withstand the test of time. Something that was not appreciated at the time but I think that by now we all learned to appreciate the vital need for theory-practice interaction when designing sound cryptographic solutions.”

And he closed with this inspiring message:

“Cryptography did wonders in enabling the information society we live in today. The next step is to improve the well-being of individuals in this society.

To achieve these goals the two communities brought together by this conference, need to work closely with each other. It’s not easy, but it’s  indispensable. How many times you are given the opportunity of building a better world?”



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