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05|15|2010 03:28 pm EDT

Cryptographer Whitfield ‘Whit’ Diffie Joins ICANN as VP for Information Security & Cryptography

by Frank Michlick in Categories: News

Whitfield Diffie

Whitfield Diffie from Wikipedia/en:Infosecpedia

As ICANN announced in a Press Release last night (PDF), the famous Cryptographer Whitefield ‘Whit’ Diffie has been hired by ICANN as Vice President for Information Security and Cryptography.

With Stanford University electrical engineering professor Martin Hellman, Diffie created and published (1976, “New Directions in Cryptography“, PDF) the Diffie-Hellman Key Exchange Protocol, which solved one of the fundamental problems of cryptography – key distribution. The process increased security through use of a secret key that is exchanged between parties prior to encryption.

He also is listed as an Distinguished Advisor to one of ICANN’s registry partners, Verisign. Verisign still lists him as being employed by Sun Microsystems – a position he left 6 months ago. DNN has contacted ICANN to find out if Diffie will still be serving as an Advisor to Verisign as well, as this could create a potential conflict of interest.

See the full press release after the jump. For more information on Diffie, we recommend the lecture of this excerpt about him from the book “Crypto” by Steven Levy.


Cryptography Legend Whit Diffie Joins the ICANN Team

Washington, DC. May 14, 2010 Pioneering cryptographer Whitfield ‘Whit’ Diffie has joined the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers as Vice President for Information Security and Cryptography.

ICANN CEO and President Rod Beckstrom expressed ICANN’s appreciation for Diffie’s exceptional background and the value he brings: “Whit Diffie brings an extraordinary intellect and immense professional achievements to ICANN, and his appointment reflects my strong commitment to improving ICANN’s technical security.”

Diffie will provide advice on general security matters related to ICANN’s mandate, and to ICANN in the design, development and implementation of security methods for ICANN-managed networks. He will oversee the continuous improvement and “best practices” process for information security and cryptography.

Globally recognized as a leader in public-key cryptography, encryption and network security, Diffie has a long and distinguished career as a leading force for innovative thought. He brings extensive experience in the design, development and implementation of security methods for networks.

With Stanford University electrical engineering professor Martin Hellman, Diffie produced the 1976 paper New Directions in Cryptography that laid the groundwork for solving one of the fundamental problems of cryptography – key distribution, a process to increase security through use of a secret key that is exchanged between parties prior to encryption.

Prior to coming to ICANN, Diffie served as Vice President, Fellow, and Chief Security Officer with Sun Microsystems, at which he had worked from 1991 to 2009. At Sun, Diffie focused on the most fundamental security problems facing modern communications and computing with emphasis on public policy as well as technology. Prior to joining Sun, Diffie was Manager of Secure Systems Research for Northern Telecom, where he played a key role in the design of Northern’s first packet security product and in developing the group that was later to become Entrust.

Diffie received a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1965 and a Doctorate in Technical Sciences from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich in 1992.
Diffie has received many awards throughout his career and was awarded a Degree of Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa) in 2008 by Royal Holloway College of the University of London. He received the Louis E. Levy Medal in 1997 from the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and the National Computer Systems Security Award, given jointly by NIST and NSA, in 1996. In 2000 he became a fellow of the Marconi Foundation.

With Susan Landau, he is the author of the 1998 book Privacy on the Line: the Politics of Wiretapping and Encryption.

[Photo from Wikipedia/en:Infosecpedia]

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2 Comments

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