Anna Lysyanskaya Receives The Levchin Prize For Real-World Cryptography

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The International Association for Cryptologic Research (IACR) is a nonprofit scientific organization whose purpose is to further research in cryptology and related fields. Every year at the Real World Crypto Symposium (RWC), they award the Levchin Prize for Real-World Cryptography, which honors major innovations in cryptography that have had a significant impact on the practice of cryptography and its use in real-world systems. Two prizes are awarded each year, and one of this year’s winners is Brown University James A. and Julie N. Brown Professor of Computer Science Anna Lysyanskaya

Anna shares the award with her long-time collaborator, Jan Camenisch, a Swiss research scientist in cryptography and privacy who is currently the Chief Technical Officer of DFINITY. The Levchin Prize was established in 2016 by a donation from Max Levchin, a long-term supporter of real-world cryptography, and carries a cash honorarium of $10,000. 

“This major recognition of Anna’s scientific leadership and accomplishments in the field of cryptography is a testament to one of the department’s core values since its founding: excellence in theory which has a profound impact on practice,” says Brown CS Department Chair Roberto Tamassia.

“I’m very grateful for this honor,” Anna says. “For seven years, I’ve been teaching a no-prerequisites class on great ideas in cryptography and how they play out in the real world. For example, AES, SHA3, FDH-RSA, elliptic-curve crypto, Merkle trees, and such systems as TLS, Let’s Encrypt, Signal and Tor. Of course, as many instructors do, I also threw in my own work. I thank the Levchin prize selection committee for evidently reading and agreeing with my course syllabus and awarding the Levchin prize, over the years, to the people behind everything I just mentioned! It’s a great honor to be among them.”   

Anna has been a Brown CS faculty member since 2002. A key theme of her research is balancing privacy with accountability, and she’s known for her foundational research in this area. Camenisch-Lysyanskaya signatures, which she co-created, provide the cryptographic basis for anonymous credentials, which allow users to prove that they possess required attributes without revealing any other information, such as personal identifiers. Her work has been incorporated into the Trusted Computing Group's industrial standard, served as the theoretical foundation for IBM Zurich's Idemix project, and informed the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC).

Anna’s accomplishments and service to her profession have been well-recognized in her field. The International Association for Cryptologic Research (IACR) is the leading organization responsible for peer review of cryptographic research, and Anna has been a member of its Board of Directors for the past eleven years. She was also recognized by the IACR as a leading researcher by her appointment as Program Co-Chair of its annual CRYPTO conference, the most prominent scholarly publication venue in her field. Anna has also served on the Advisory Board and Board of Directors of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a privacy watchdog and advocacy group. 

“Around the time that Max Levchin was cofounding PayPal,” Anna says, “I was getting into the much more theoretical question of privacy-preserving (Chaumian) ecash and related cryptographic protocols, such as anonymous credentials. Those are still the main areas of my work. I see this honor as recognition that privacy-preserving authentication tokens are finally becoming practically relevant, with governments eyeing ways to mandate digital identities and digital currencies, while at the same time trying to satisfy privacy laws such as Europe's GDPR.” 

For a list of honorees past and present, click here.

For more information, click the link that follows to contact Brown CS Communications Manager Jesse C. Polhemus.