Cybersecurity In-Depth

The Edge

Martin and Dorothie Hellman on Love, Crypto & Saving the World

Martin Hellman, co-creator of the Diffie-Hellman key exchange, and his wife of 53 years, Dorothie, talk about the current state of cryptography and what making peace at home taught them about making peace on Earth.

continued from page 1 A Crypto Pioneer’s Thoughts on Crypto

There are no secrets between Dorothie and Martin Hellman. But does one of the founding fathers of public key cryptography entrust crypto to protect any other secrets he may send in electronic messages? Not exactly. 

“I never put anything in email that I wouldn’t want to see plastered across the front page of The New York Times,” he says. “Not that that’s likely to happen, but I do think that way.”

And as communications technology continues to advance, he thinks that ever-more vigilant security protections are necessary, whether it’s refusing to talk in front of an Alexa or placing a cell phone in a faraday cage during a classified conversation. “I don’t think that’s paranoid,” he says. “I think that’s very realistic.”

He acknowledges that some have seen his work in cybersecurity as counteractive to his pursuit of world peace – that a world without war would not have so many secrets to protect. However, “we live in the world we live” for now, he says and we probably will always have secrets, at least for trade purposes.

And when the FBI asks Apple to unlock individuals’ cell phones or create encryption backdoors, he essentially supports the privacy rights of the individuals.

“The FBI keeps saying they want to just go back to the good ol’ days when they want to put a wiretap on and hear what’s going on,” he says. “Well, if they went back to the good ol’ days, they’d lose out on 99% of the intelligence they get, cause in the good ol’ days they didn’t have surveillance cameras, they didn’t have cell phones tracking us, they didn’t have automated license plate readers. ….

“[However], this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take into account [law enforcement’s] perspective. They do have valid concerns. And I would love to see meetings between key people in the FBI and members of the information security community to really talk respectfully with one another.”

World Peace Begins at Home

A friend of the Hellmans summed up their book by saying, “I get it: World peace begins at home.” If compassion, communication, and respect lead you to previously inconceivable benefits in your personal life relationships, they say, then believing those same practices could benefit other relationships – even those between nations – is not so difficult.   

“I can’t tell you one nuclear weapon I’ve gotten rid of, one international conflict I’ve diffused,” says Martin. “But I can tell you that [Dorothie and I] went from fighting too much of the time 40 years ago to not having a fight in 20 years or mistreating each other. We thank each other daily. Multiple times daily.

"We both say, 'How can I be so lucky as to have found you?'”


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