#RSAC: Cryptographers' Panel Discusses Blockchain, Voting & Missing Shamir

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Covering topics as far and wide as Blockchain, voting security, homomorphic encryption and government policy, the annual RSA Conference Cryptographers’ Panel began with the surprising news that RSA founder Adi Shamir had not been permitted to attend as he had not had a response to his tourist visa application.

Speaking in a pre-recorded video Shamir, based in Isreal, highlighted his various society memberships and career awards, and said that he had applied for a tourist visa two months ago and had heard nothing. “Since others are having similar problems, perhaps it is time we re-think how and where we organize our major scientific conferences,” he added.

Panellists including fellow RSA founder Ron Rivest said he would contact his representatives, while Shafi Goldwasser, RSA professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, said it was “not clear who is in charge.”

Moderating the panel, RSA Security CTO Zulfikar Ramzan, said that cryptography “builds trust in systems.” However, covering some of the common challenges, security researcher Paul Kocher mentioned a recent Australian law saying “it would be better to put people in prison who sneak backdoors in” as opposed to those disclosing vulnerabilities.

Looking at GDPR, Kocher said that regulation was needed and there are questions to be asked on how it plays out, while Tal Rabin, head of the cryptography research group at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson research center, and who received the award for Excellence in Mathematics prior to the panel, said that solutions have been built in, and GDPR allows them to “come into play in a serious way” as it enables privacy and regulation of data. 

Moving onto voting, Rivest said that this has been a “huge area for the country and democracy” and it needs to be done right, and we learned how fragile the voting system is.

Regarding Blockchain and Bitcoin, Kocher argued that there is a big difference “between a research paper and how it works in the real world.”

The panel concluded with a discussion on how cryptographers need to work better with journalists to make things more understandable.

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