Information Security at 100



Whitfield Diffie, Sun Microsystems, Inc.

Date and Time

February 22, 2005 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


Reuben W. Hills Conference Room

FSI Contact

Chana Rodriguez

Despite an interesting prehistory, the field of information security we know today dates from the introduction of radio at the beginning of the 20th century. Cryptography dominated information security in its first hundred years and is now the best understood part of the field. In the last thirty years, cryptography was joined by the broad subject of secure computing, which remains much less well developed but shows signs of substantial improvement in the near future. The growth of networking promises a world in which typical computations are collaborations among many computers in a fashion suggestive of commercial subcontracting. In this environment, negotiation and configuration control will become the dominant information security problems.

Whitfield Diffie, Chief Security Officer of Sun Microsystems, is Vice President and Sun Fellow and has been at Sun since 1991. As Chief Security Officer, Diffie is the chief exponent of Sun's security vision and responsible for developing Sun's strategy to achieve that vision. Best known for his 1975 discovery of the concept of public key cryptography, Diffie spent the 1990s working primarily on the public policy aspects of cryptography and has testified several times in the Senate and House of Representatives. His position - in opposition to limitations on the business and personal use of cryptography - is the subject of the book, Crypto, by Steven Levy of Newsweek. Diffie and Susan Landau are joint authors of the book Privacy on the Line, which examines the politics of wiretapping and encryption and won the Donald McGannon Award for Social and Ethical Relevance in Communications Policy Research and the IEEE-USA award for Distinguished Literary Contributions Furthering Public Understanding of the Profession.

Diffie is a fellow of the Marconi Foundation and the International Association for Cryptologic Research and is the recipient of awards from a number of organizations, including IEEE, The Electronic Frontiers Foundation, NIST, NSA, the Franklin Institute and ACM. Prior to assuming his present position in 1991, Diffie was Manager of Secure Systems Research for Northern Telecom, where he designed the key management architecture for NT's PDSO security system for X.25 packet networks. Diffie received a BS in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1965, and was awarded a Doctorate in Technical Sciences (Honoris Causa) by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in 1992.