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Cryptography scientists win 2012 Turing Award

Association for Computing Machinery bestows its award on Shafi Goldwasser and Silvio Micali for pioneering technology in Internet security.

Shafi Goldwasser and Silvio Micali. Jason Dorfman, CSAIL/MIT

Two cryptography scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have won the 2012 Turing Award for pioneering ways to make online transactions secure, the Association for Computing Machinery announced today.

Scientists Shafi Goldwasser and Silvio Micali were recognized for laying the "foundations of modern theoretical cryptography," which lead to the development of technology that is now standard in security, like encryption and digital signatures, according to ACM.

The prestigious award, named after British mathematician Alan M. Turing, comes with a $250,000 cash prize provided by Intel and Google. Turing is known as a pioneer of modern computing and was a code breaker during World War II.

This year's recipients are both principal investigators at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab in addition to being professors.

Micali is the Ford professor of engineering at MIT, while Goldwasser is the RSA professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT as well as a professor of computer science and applied mathematics at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

The two started working together in 1980, when they were grad students at the University of California at Berkeley. According to MIT, it all started with a poker game:

While toying around with the idea of how to securely play a game of poker over the phone, they devised a scheme for encrypting and ensuring the security of single bits of data. From there, Goldwasser and Micali proved that their scheme could be scaled up to tackle much more complex problems, such as communications protocols and Internet transactions.

Last year, the award went to professor Judea Pearl of the University of California, Los Angeles for his work in extending the understanding of artificial intelligence.