Cryptography: Secrets and Lies, Knowledge and Trust

Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 7:00pm - 8:00pm
Willey Hall 175
Avi Wigderson (Institute for Advanced Study)
1) Did you ever wonder what protects your computer password when you log on, or your credit card number when you shop on-line, from hackers listening on the communication lines? 2) Is it possible for a group of people to play a (cardless) game of Poker on the telephone, without anyone being able to cheat? 3) Can you convince others that you can solve a tough math (or SudoKu) puzzle, without giving them the slightest hint of your solution? 4) Can two people who never met create a secret language in the presence of others, which no one but them can understand?

In this talk, I plan to survey some of the mathematical and computational ideas, definitions, and assumptions which underlie privacy and security of the Internet and electronic commerce. I will explain some of the magical consequences of this theory. For example, how the solution of question (1) enables a positive answer to questions (2), (3), and (4). I will also explain the fragility of the current foundations of modern cryptography and the need for stronger ones.