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Ronald Rivest

RSA Cryptography

U.S. Patent No. 4,405,829
Inducted in 2018
Born May 6, 1947

RSA Cryptography is the world’s most widely used public-key cryptography method for securing communication on the Internet. Instrumental to the growth of e-commerce, RSA is used in almost all Internet-based transactions to safeguard sensitive data such as credit card numbers.

Introduced in 1977 by MIT colleagues Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Leonard Adleman, RSA—its name derived from the initials of their surnames—is a specific type of public-key cryptography, or PKC, innovated in 1976 by Whitfield Diffie, Martin Hellman, and Ralph Merkle. Intrigued by their research, Rivest, with Shamir and Adleman, developed cryptographic algorithms and techniques to practically enable secure encoding and decoding of messages between communicating parties.

Unlike previous methods requiring securely-exchanged keys to encrypt and decrypt messages, RSA provided a method for encryption and decryption without both parties needing a shared secret key. RSA could also mark messages with a digital signature, and allowed originators to create messages intelligible only to intended recipients; third parties intercepting such transmissions would find them indecipherable.

In 1982, the inventors founded RSA Data Security. In 1995, VeriSign was founded as a spin-off of RSA Data Security’s certification services business. RSA Security was acquired by EMC in 2006.

A native of Schenectady, NY, Rivest earned his B.A. in mathematics at Yale University and his Ph.D. in computer science at Stanford University. He remains on the faculty of MIT. Named on over 25 U.S. patents, Rivest has received numerous awards, including the 2007 Marconi Prize and, with Shamir and Adleman, the 2002 ACM Turing Award.

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