Fellows Highlight - Whitfield Diffie

May 14, 2010

Original article posted on May 14, 2010 – By Robert McMillan, IDG News – PCWorld.

Crypto Guru Whit Diffie Takes ICANN Security Job

Dr. Whitfield DiffieSix months after leaving his job at Sun Microsystems noted cryptographer Whitfield 'Whit' Diffie has landed a new gig, this time as a security adviser to the corporation that manages the Internet.

Diffie has taken a job as vice president for information security and cryptography at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a not-for-profit group that bears high-level responsibility for the domain name system and the Internet's IP addresses.

At ICANN, the cryptographer will supervise the "design, development and implementation of security methods for ICANN-managed networks" and advise the group on security matters, ICANN said in a statement released Friday.

Diffie is one of the inventors of the Diffie — Hellman key exchange, a cryptographic protocol that enabled public key cryptography and helped make strong cryptography mainstream. In his job at Sun, he worked as a high-level adviser to the company and often spoke publicly on security issues.

As scammers find new ways to abuse the Internet, ICANN has come under fire for not moving decisively to deal with bad actors, so Diffie will inherit some thorny security problems at his new job.

One thing Diffie could do is push ICANN to keep groups that assign IP space — RIPE (Reseaux IP Europeens), for example — from giving resources to known bad actors, said Jart Armin, the pseudonymous security researcher who edits the Hostexploit.com Web site.

ICANN could also keep an eye on newly issued network addresses to see if they're being misused by criminals and pull them off the Internet "if there is obviously badness served within a short period of its issuance," he said via instant message.