Shafi Goldwasser, a mathematician whose groundbreaking work has provided the foundation of modern cryptography methods for the secure exchange of electronic information, is being honored by IEEE with the 2011 IEEE Emanuel R. Piore Award. IEEE is the world’s largest technical professional association.
The award, sponsored by the IEEE Emanuel R. Piore Award Fund, recognizes Goldwasser for pioneering work in laying the foundations of modern cryptography and its relation to complexity theory. The award will be presented on 23 October 2011 at the IEEE Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science in Palm Springs, Calif.
Goldwasser is considered a key figure in the “second revolution” of cryptography, making the success of modern cryptography possible. She provided firm foundations for systematic research that the field was previously lacking. Among its security applications, cryptography makes possible the secure authentification and transmission of information over the Internet. Goldwasser’s pioneering work has provided far-reaching definitions of security to protect against very general threats or adversaries. She also realized the important connection between cryptography and complexity theory, which has resulted in groundbreaking contributions to that field as well.
In 1983, Goldwasser’s work on probabilistic encryption with Silvio Micali demonstrated how to use randomness to define and achieve semantic security. This work provided solid theory of cryptographic primitives and protocols, with great applications to e-commerce. It is considered the current gold standard for privacy in modern encryption schemes and arguably has shaped the definitions of cryptographic security the most.
Goldwasser produced one of the most celebrated results in modern cryptography in 1985 with her work on interactive proofs with Silvio Micali and Charles Rackoff. Zero-knowledge proofs, a special type of interactive proof, allows one to prove possession of information or property without revealing the information itself or anything of value about it. For example, the holder of a valid credit card can be verified without divulging any information on the card itself. Zero-knowledge protocols serve as the basis for many applications that preserve the secrecy of participant data, such as in electronic voting.
In the area of complexity theory, Goldwasser's work with Uriel Feige, Laslo Lovasz, Shmuel Safra, and Mario Szegedi showed the difficulty of approximating the size of the largest clique in a graph. This effort launched the modern complexity theoapproach to showing how
hard it is to even approximate the solution of NP-complete problems, a classic challenge in computational complexity theory. Her work with Oded Goldreich and Dana Ron on graph property testing launched the field of property testing of combinatorial objects.
An IEEE Member, Goldwasser is a Fellow of the International Association for Cryptologic Research and member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. A two-time co-recipient of the Gödel Prize in Theoretical Computer Science, her other awards include the National Science Foundation (NSF) Presidential Young Investigator Award, the RSA Award in Mathematics, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science. Goldwasser received her bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa., and master’s and doctorate degrees in computer science from the University of California, Berkeley. She is currently the RSA Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge and Professor of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics at Weizmann Institute of Science Rehovot, Israel.