SAN FRANCISCO — It’s pretty tough to get a cynical, often paranoid, group of people to rise in unison in approval. It’s pretty tough, however, not to extend a standing ovation to cryptography and security pioneers Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir and Len Adleman, the R, S and A in RSA Security. The trio that developed the algorithm at the heart of a company and the security industry were honored this morning at RSA Conference 2011 with the RSA Lifetime Achievement Awards.
Rivest, Shamir and Adleman stood while conference founder and the award’s namesake Jim Bidzos rattled off an endless list of accomplishments and contributions to the security industry aside from the RSA algorithm. The announcement was preceded by a 20-minute video on the making of the RSA cryptosystem and included poignant memories and comments from friends, family and colleagues of all three men, in addition to their insights.
“We have indeed been fortunate to stand on the shoulders of giants,” said RSA executive chairman Art Coviello.
The Rivest, Shamir, Adelman paper of 1977 “A Method for Obtaining Digital Signatures and Public-Key Cryptosystems” is the foundation for security in ecommerce; more than one billion digital certificates are validated daily in support of transactions carried over SSL, Bidzos said.
Rivest has been a professor at MIT for 35 years was one of the developers of the MD hash functions, as well as the RC4 algorithm. He is currently focusing his efforts on machine learning and electronic voting research and policy development. Shamir wrote the seminal paper “How to Share a Secret” and received the Pope’s Piux XI gold medal. The three current deans of Israel’s top technology institutes were Shamir students–at the same time. Adleman, meanwhile, is also an MIT professor known for breaking the Knapsack cryptosystem, as well as for the creation of DNA computing.