Whitfield Diffie

Whitfield " Whit " Diffie ( born June 5, 1944 in Washington, DC ) is an American expert on cryptography. He belongs together with Martin Hellman of the pioneers of public-key cryptography ( encryption with public keys and asymmetric encryption systems).

Life and work

He finished his maths degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1965 ( Bachelor's degree ) and was there in the environment of the Artificial Intelligence Lab, from the 1960s, a leading research center for artificial intelligence, where also many hackers were active alongside scientists. From 1969 he was at Stanford University, where his collaboration with Hellman began to cryptography. His interest in it came like that of Hellman especially from reading the published in 1967 classic The Codebreakers by David Kahn. After his time at Stanford, he worked on security software at Northern Telecom, where he was manager of secure systems research and developed the key distribution architecture for X.25 networks in their PDSO system. Since 1991, Diffie worked at the company Sun Microsystems in Menlo Park, California, as a Distinguished Engineer and currently serves as Chief Security Officer and Vice President. He is a Sun Fellow. He has been a visiting professor at Royal Holloway College, University of London, was a Fellow of the Isaac Newton Institute in Cambridge and the Marconi Foundation.

Diffie and Hellman published in 1976, who were then working at the Stanford University, her essay New Directions in Cryptography. In it she described the now named after them Diffie -Hellman key exchange; a novel method for solving the problem of secure provision of the secret key for encryption of messages. They used a so-called one-way function.

He also deals with social issues of cryptography, about which he wrote a book with Susan Landau, and was an expert witness in several Senate and congressional hearings in the United States.

He was made an honorary Doctor of ETH Zurich and 2008 of the Royal Holloway College in 1992. He is a Fellow of the International Association for Cryptologic Research ( IACR ). In 1996 he received the Paris Kanellakis Award.


  • Susan Landau: Privacy on the line. The politics of wiretapping and encryption. MIT Press, Cambridge MA et al 1998, ISBN 0-262-04167-7 ( Updated and expanded edition. Ibid. 2007, ISBN 978-0-262-04240-6 ).
  • The first ten years of public key cryptography. In: Gustavus J. Simmons ( ed.): Contemporary Cryptology. The Science of Information Integrity. IEEE Press, Piscataway NJ 1992, ISBN 0-87942-277-7, pp. 65-134.
  • ME Hellman: Privacy and authentication: An introduction to cryptography. In: Proceedings of the IEEE. Vol 67, No 3, 1979, pp. 397-427, doi: 10.1109/PROC.1979.11256.
  • ME Hellman: New directions in cryptography. In: IEEE Transactions on Information Theory. Vol 22, No. 6, 1976, ISSN 0018-9448, pp. 644-654, doi: 10.1109/TIT.1976.1055638.