Cryptography leader to speak at Conte Lecture


** Samuel D. Conte Distinguished Lecture Series for Fall 2016**



"Human Computation with an Application to Passwords"
Manuel Blum
Carnegie Mellon University
10:30 a.m. Dec. 9
LWSN 1142
Human computation: This talk presents a simple model of human computation based on well-known features of long and short term human memory. The intention of the model is to bring CS ideas and understanding to bear on the kinds of computations that humans can (and cannot) consciously perform in their heads.
This work has applications to the study of problems that humans might want to solve in their heads, like how to solve crossword puzzles, play speed chess, and various cryptographic problems.
The running example in this talk will be password generation wherein humans - working entirely in their heads - transform website names into random-looking passwords that are provably hard to forge.
Application to passwords: Nowadays, the best password advice suggests, for each website, to either select and memorize four random picturable words (XKCD), or choose a memorable sentence and use the first letter of every word for the password.
One problem with all such proposals is that they don't indicate how to link website names to passwords. In effect, they would have you generate and memorize a special purpose password for every website. Little wonder that few people do this.
We recommend instead to use a humanly computable algorithm - a schema - to transform website names into passwords on the fly. These schemas enable a human to have a (completely) different password for every website, to never have to write passwords down, and to be able to test password quality without giving any passwords away. They also enable us to analyze the Quality of Password Schemas mathematically.
He will also talk about joint work with Jeremiah Blocki and Santosh Vempala.
Manuel Blum, the Bruce Nelson University Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, is a pioneer in the field of theoretical computer science and the winner of the 1995 Turing Award in recognition of his contributions to the foundations of computational complexity theory and its applications to cryptography and program checking, a mathematical approach to writing programs that check their work.

He was born in Caracas, Venezuela, where his parents settled after fleeing Europe in the 1930s, and came to the United States in the mid-1950s to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While studying electrical engineering, he pursued his desire to understand thinking and brains by working in the neurophysiology laboratory of Dr. Warren S. McCulloch and Walter Pitts, then concentrated on mathematical logic and recursion theory for the insight it gave him on brains and thinking. He did his doctoral work under the supervision of Artificial Intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky, and earned a Ph.D. from MIT in mathematics in 1964.
Blum began his teaching career at MIT as an assistant professor of mathematics and, in 1968, joined the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley. He accepted his present position at Carnegie Mellon in 2001. Blum has supervised the theses of 35 doctoral students who now pepper almost every major computer science department in the country. The many ground-breaking areas of theoretical computer science chartered by his academic descendants are legend.

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