Since the earliest days of communication, clever minds have devised methods for enciphering messages to shield them from prying eyes. Today, cryptography has moved beyond the realm of dilettantes and soldiers to become a sophisticated scientific art—combining mathematics, physics, computer science, and electrical engineering. It not only protects messages, but it also safeguards our privacy. From email to banking transactions, modern cryptography is used everywhere. But does it really protect us? What took place was a discussion of cryptography’s far-reaching influence throughout history (from Julius Caesar’s reign to Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks), and the ways in which it—and our privacy—are constantly under assault today as threats lurk behind IP addresses, computational power increases, and our secrets move online.
More from this series: Keeping Secrets
Josh Zepps is a correspondent for Bloomberg TV’s Energy Now, reporting on the future of energy and the environment. His show on Discovery Science Channel, Brink, took an irreverent look at the latest breakthroughs on the brink of changing our lives. His one-hour science specials continue to air on Discovery around the world.
In his native Australia, Josh Zepps earned radio’s highest prize, a Commercial Radio Award, for his syndicated daily radio sketches satirizing culture and politics. His new audio podcast, Fascinating Crap with Josh Zepps & Friends, takes a funny look at science and creativity. It is available for free on iTunes.
Recognized mathematician and computer scientist Brian Snow’s early work spans from teaching mathematics and laying the groundwork for a computer science department at Ohio University in the 1960’s, to working as a cryptologic designer and architect at the National Security Agency (NSA) in the 1970s. In the 1980s, he helped create and manage NSA’s Secure Systems Design division, contributing to nuclear command and control systems and developing tactical radios for the battlefield. Several patents, awards, and honors attest to his creativity.
Snow’s later contributions included serving as NSA’s senior technical director in three major mission components: research directorate (1994-1995); information assurance directorate (1996-2002), and directorate for education and training (2003-2006).
Throughout these years, Brian maintained this steadfast credo: “Managers are responsible for doing things right. Technical Directors are responsible for finding the right things to do.” A leading voice for always assessing the unintended consequences
of success and failure prior to taking action, Snow insisted that NSA’s role in providing intelligence should never put citizens or their rights at risk.
After retiring in 2006, Snow is now a security consultant and ethics advisor.
Simon Singh’s documentary about Fermat’s Last Theorem was the winner of a BAFTA in the UK and was nominated for an EMMY. His publication on the same subject, Fermat’s Enigma, is the first book about mathematics to become a number one bestseller in the UK, and has since been translated into 30 languages. His other literary accomplishments include The Code Book (a history of encryption), Big Bang (a history of cosmology), and Trick or Treatment: Alternative Medicine on Trial.
Before joining BBC Science as a TV producer, Simon Singh completed a Ph.D. in particle physics at Cambridge University and CERN. In 2008, the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) sued Singh for an article criticizing claims to treat various childhood conditions. The case ended in 2010, when the BCA withdrew their action, thereby vindicating Singh’s original publication. Simon has spent the last two years as a member of the Libel Reform Campaign, which aims to bring English libel law in line with levels of free speech in other democratic countries.
An active member of the research community in the fields of cryptanalysis (breaking ciphers), computer security, and privacy, Orr Dunkelman has published numerous papers analyzing the security of ciphers and cryptosystems. He is widely recognized for his work on the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), the KASUMI block cipher that is used to protect 3G communications, and the KeeLoq block cipher that is widely deployed in remote entry systems, such as alarms.
Additionally, Orr has worked on improving cryptanalytic methods and developing new techniques. His advances in the cryptanalytic toolbox have helped buffer recent attacks on the full AES and many other ciphers.
Born in Ramat Gan, Israel, Orr Dunkelman completed his Ph.D. studies in the computer science department at the Israel Institute of Technology in 2006. He currently holds a faculty position at the University of Haifa, Israel.
Manager and research staff member of the Cryptography Research Group at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center, Tal Rabin’s research focuses on the general area of cryptography and, more specifically, on multiparty computations, threshold and proactive security, which the National Research Council Cybersecurity Report to Congress said “… are now being seen as exactly the right primitives for building distributed systems that are more secure”.
Rabin regularly publishes in leading cryptography and security conferences and journals and has written several book chapters. She has also served as the Program Chair in leading cryptography conferences and is an editor of the Journal of Cryptology.
Rabin obtained her Ph.D. in Computer Science from the Hebrew University, Israel in 1994, and was an NSF Postdoc Fellow at MIT between 1994-1996. Following her postdoc, she joined IBM in 1996 and started managing the group in 1997.