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Martin E. Hellman is professor emeritus of electrical engineering at Stanford, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, and an inductee of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He became a CISAC affiliated faculty member in October 2012.

Hellman is best known for his invention, with Diffie and Merkle, of public key cryptography. In addition to many other uses, this technology forms the basis for secure transactions on the Internet. He has also been a long-time contributor to the computer privacy debate, starting with the issue of DES key size in 1975 and culminating with service (1994-96) on the National Research Council’s Committee to Study National Cryptographic Policy, whose main recommendations have since been implemented. Prof. Hellman also has a deep interest in the ethics of technological development. With Prof. Anatoly Gromyko of Moscow, he co-edited Breakthrough: Emerging New Thinking, a book published simultaneously in Russian and English in 1987 during the rapid change in Soviet-American relations. His current project in this area, Defusing the Nuclear Threat, applies risk analysis to a potential failure of nuclear deterrence and has been endorsed by a number of prominent individuals including a former Director of the National Security Agency, Stanford’s President Emeritus, and two Nobel Laureates.

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Prof. Hellman was at IBM’s Watson Research Center from 1968-69 and an assistant professor of EE at MIT from 1969-71. Returning to Stanford in 1971, he served on the regular faculty until becoming Professor Emeritus in 1996. He has authored over seventy technical papers, six US patents and a number of foreign equivalents.

Hellman has been a long-time contributor to the computer privacy debate. He and Diffie were the most prominent critics of the short key size of the Data Encryption Standard  in 1975. An audio recording survives of their review of DES at Stanford in 1976 with Dennis Branstad of NBS  and representatives of the National Security Agency.Their concern was well-founded: subsequent history has shown not only that NSA actively intervened with IBM and NBS to shorten the key size, but also that the short key size enabled exactly the kind of massively parallel key crackers that Hellman and Diffie sketched out, which when ultimately built outside the classified world, made it clear that DES was insecure and obsolete. In 2012, a $10,000 commercially available machine can recover a DES key in days. Hellman also served (1994–96) on the National Research Council’s Committee to Study National Cryptographic Policy, whose main recommendations have since been implemented.

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