Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Diffie, Hellman, and Merkle get the Hamming Medal

Whitfield Diffie, Martin Hellman, and Ralph Merkle are the 2010 IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medalists. The men won the medal for their work in public key cryptography—in particular for the Diffie-Hellman key exchange algorithm. Although less well known (as an artifact of publication scheduling) Merkle is considered a co-inventor of the algorithm.

I've always considered the Diffie-Hellman algorithm one of the great hacks in cryptography. It's very easy to understand, yet accomplishes the seemingly impossible by allowing two parties to agree on a secret key even though the negotiation is carried out in public. Interestingly, Merkle was trying to prove that it was impossible to do so when he developed the method as an undergraduate at Berkeley. Diffie and Hellman developed the method independently at Stanford.

Congratulations to all three.

No comments:

Post a Comment