Stanford EE Computer Systems Colloquium

4:15PM, Wednesday, Mar 15, 2006
HP Auditorium, Gates Computer Science Building B01

Permissive Action Links and the History of Public Key Cryptography

Steven M. Bellovin
Columbia University
About the talk:

From a security perspective, command and control of nuclear weapons presents a challenge. The security mechanisms are supposed to be so good that they're impossible to bypass. But how do they work? Beyond that, there are reports linking these mechanisms to the early history of public key cryptography. We'll explore the documented history of both fields, and speculate on just how permissive action links -- the "combination locks" on nuclear weapons -- actually work.


Download the slides for the presentation in PDF format. There is also an associated paper which discusses the issues in detail. For background, you may want to read A Prehistory of Public Key Cryptography. For another approach to PALs, read Matt Blaze's "Safecracking for the Computer Scientist".

About the speaker:

Steven M. Bellovin is a professor of computer science at Columbia University, where he does research on networks, security, and especially why the two don't get along. He joined the faculty in 2005 after many years at Bell Labs and AT&T Labs Research, where he was an AT&T Fellow. He received a BA degree from Columbia University, and an MS and PhD in Computer Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While a graduate student, he helped create Netnews; for this, he and the other perpetrators were award the 1995 Usenix Lifetime Achievement Award. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and the Department of Homeland Security's Science and Technology Advisory Board.

Bellovin is the co-author of Firewalls and Internet Security: Repelling the Wily Hacker, and holds several patents on cryptographic and network protocols. He has served on many National Research Council study committees, including those on information systems trustworthiness, the privacy implications of authentication technologies, and cybersecurity research needs; he was also a member of the information technology subcommittee of an NRC study group on science versus terrorism. He was a member of the Internet Architecture Board from 1996-2002; he was co-director of the Security Area of the IETF from 2002 through 2004.

For a more detailed account of my background, consult my informal biography.

Contact information:

Steven M. Bellovin
454 Computer Science Building
Department of Computer Science
1214 Amsterdam Avenue, M.C. 0401
New York, NY 10027-7003
+1 212 939 7149
s m b @ c s . c o l u m b i a . e d u