Some people have emailed me asking me to blog about the paper The Moral Character of Cryptographic Work by Phillip Rogaway I urge you to read it, even if you disagree with it. Especially if you disagree with it. (Hmm- how will you know if you don't read it!)
There are so many issues raised in this paper that it could be (and might be) the topic of many blog posts. The first three paragraphs are today's topic:
Preamble. Most academic cryptographers seem to think that our field is a fun,
deep, and politically neutral game—a set of puzzles involving communicating
parties and notional adversaries. This vision of who we are animates a field
whose work is intellectually impressive and rapidly produced, but also quite
inbred and divorced from real-world concerns. Is this what cryptography should
be like? Is it how we should expend the bulk of our intellectual capital?
For me, these questions came to a head with the Snowden disclosures of 2013.
If cryptography’s most basic aim is to enable secure communications, how could
it not be a colossal failure of our field when ordinary people lack even a modicum
of communication privacy when interacting electronically? Yet I soon realized
that most cryptographers didn’t see it this way. Most seemed to feel that the
disclosures didn’t even implicate us cryptographers.
I think that they do. So I want to talk about the moral obligations of cryptographers,
and my community as a whole. This is not a topic cryptographers
routinely discuss. In this post-Snowden era, I think it needs to be.
1) I would add that the Target Breaking, the SONY hack, and the OPM breakin might also show that crypto has been a failure. He doesn't seem to mention those but I think they strengthen his case.
2) Might it be Security that is a colossal failure? Of course, crypto and security go together so it may be hard to disentangle whose failure it is.
3) Might it be that good crypto research has been done but is not being used- the tech transfer problem. He later claims that this would be relevant if crypto worked on the right problems in the
4) I tend to think he's right. Rather than me telling you why I think he's right, just read his paper.