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Interview With Cryptographer Elonka Dunin 103

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the old-school-geeks dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Whitedust is running a very interesting article with the DEF CON speaker and cryptographer Elonka Dunin. The article covers her career and specifically her involvement with the CIA and other US Military agencies."
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Interview With Cryptographer Elonka Dunin

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  • So (Score:2, Interesting)

    by poeidon1 (767457)
    is quantum cryptography being persued in the military?
  • Elonka (Score:5, Informative)

    by HackHackBoom (198866) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @01:09PM (#14916961) Journal
    I had the pleasure of working with Elonka through her primary employer, Simutronics for a few months... She's brilliant and I think her work in cryptography as it relates to the subject matter of this article is top notch.
    • Re:Elonka (Score:4, Interesting)

      by pilgrim23 (716938) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @01:45PM (#14917323)
      About a year or two ago I had a discussion with this lady on a subject of mutual interest: the Voynich Manuscript; a medeval bit of encryption. Her knowledge of that obscurity caught my curiousity so I looked her up. A MOST impressive curicula vitae there...
    • Re:Elonka (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Joiseybill (788712)
      I also worked with Simutronics for a while - apparently during the period she was working out of St. Louis apartments. I never knew that at the time. As a GameHost for GemStone III, I always thought that they ran a very slick, professional site. We had several developers,had mandatory weekly meetings (online) to discuss game developments and maintenance and they ran 24/7/365 operations. I was amazed to see a MMORPG that could handle 1000+ average simultaneous users, and I was proud to have redundant dial-
  • A Beautiful Mind? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by indyweb (959553)
    Looks like she's the real thing, even makes Russell Crowe seem boring.
    • The movie's portrayal of Nash was cleaned up quite a bit -- in reality he was even crazier than Crowe portrayed him, and not at all a sympathetic character. The nice thing about people like Dunin is that they demonstrate to the world that people can be true geniuses without falling into any of the "mad scientist" or "hopeless social outcast" stereotypes.
      • Bearing in mind that I don't know her AT ALL and in fact she seems like a perfectly well-adjusted person from reading her webpages, I can't help but wonder why she isn't married - and has apparently never been - at the age of 48 which she's totally a reasonably attractive woman.

        This would be completely offtopic if it didn't speak to the question of whether or not you can be a genius without being completely maladjusted.
        • Bearing in mind that I don't know her AT ALL and in fact she seems like a perfectly well-adjusted person from reading her webpages, I can't help but wonder why she isn't married - and has apparently never been - at the age of 48 which she's totally a reasonably attractive woman.

          I think it's just that she's intelligent enough to realize that the idea of marriage doesn't appeal to her, though of course, there could be more to it than that. I don't know her personally, but I did meet her one year at SimuCon [play.net]

          • (the St. Louis Hilton populated by hundreds of inebriated gaming geeks.)

            Oops, it the Sheraton, not Hilton. I have to admit that it is all kind of a blur, given that I didn't get much sleep over the few days that I was there, owing to the fact that I was sharing a room (with two beds) with eleven other people.

    • I wouldn't say that I know Elonka, but I've met her numerous times at Dragon*Con, have spoken with her during and after various hacker panels, and even snapped a couple of pix of her (no, not THOSE kinds of pix!).

      She's one of the most impressive people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. She's staggeringly intelligent, yet completely approachable and unassuming. She's the only person I've ever met who can discuss quantum cryptography in detail without coming across sounding "high brow". Think of a femal
  • Background info (Score:5, Informative)

    by yppiz (574466) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @01:24PM (#14917112) Homepage
    There's also a pretty good Wikipedia entry for her [wikipedia.org].

    --Pat

  • by Mortisoul (542987) <mallen@2nw.net> on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @01:25PM (#14917127) Homepage
    After meeting her both at defcon and when she was kind enough to come and speak at a couple of the UMR ACM meetings she is completely brilliant. I wish her the best of luck with the final parts of the sculpture as well as success with her game company. Good taste in sushi too :)
  • Very cool person ;) (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 222 (551054) * <{moc.liamg} {ta} {rekeesmrots}> on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @01:31PM (#14917201) Homepage
    I met elonka at a con a few years ago, and I can honestly say she's one of the coolest people to go out and have a few drinks with; very interesting conversations.

    Btw, its about time we caught another movie ;), Jay
  • by nmccart (952969) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @01:37PM (#14917248) Homepage
    Quantum cryptography is neat, to be sure, but what happens if the cat dies?
  • The Corporation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @01:48PM (#14917348) Homepage Journal
    The CIA is not supposed to be a "military agency". It was originally supposed to be an assassination agency supporting US military overthrow of enemy governments during WWII, when it was the "Office of Special Services". When it was converted to the CIA, its postwar role was supposed to be foreign intelligence gathering, with domestic operations confined to centrally processing government intelligence information. None of its operations are supposed to be military, as in tactical violence against strategic targets to support government policies.

    The CIA is not supposed to trade guns for cocaine or peddle them in the US, or work with the mafia to fund operations secret from Congress, either.
    • Re:The Corporation (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 0ptix (649734)
      Nor is the CIA really into cryptography. Yes they need a few cryptographers here and there but when I went to them, looking for a job (in the field of cryptography research) i was politly asked to go see their colegues over at the (very non-discript and unmarked) NSA booth over in the corner.

      The first time round when approaching the NSA booth I stupidly enough kept my (normal) british accent and was almost imediatly told to go see the GCHQ. (i.e. "get lost kid") So I walked off again and only came back when
    • It's not supposed to assassinate US presidents, but that didn't stop them when it came to John F. Kennedy.....(see those State Department memos declassified this past year).
      • Didn't a whole bunch of State Dept files get reclassified recently?
    • Re:The Corporation (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It was the "Office of Strategic Services", not special...
    • Moderation +3
          60% Interesting
          20% Troll
          20% Informative

      OK, TrollMod, try googling for (cia "iran/contra" cocaine) [google.com].
  • In our midst (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @01:53PM (#14917410)
    Not only is she featured on Slashdot. She's also a member. [slashdot.org]
    • Not only is she featured on Slashdot. She's also a member.

      And she goes to the gym [slashdot.org], too!

      C'mon guys, now we have a genius as our slashdotter role model, we should follow her example and build some muscle!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    We must get Elonka Dunin to Tir Asleen where she will be safe from the evil Queen Bavmorda!
  • Steganography (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Aspirator (862748) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @02:17PM (#14917676)
    From TFA:
    And there was an extensive scan of images done by a team from the University of Michigan,
    looking through millions of internet locations, and then clustering computers together and
    running password dictionary attacks on anything that looked suspicious, but they never found
    a single thing.


    Given the prevalence of near GB files traversing the internet, and a payload of only a few kB,
    is there any reasonable expectation that one could find it if it did exist, let alone decrypt it?
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @02:20PM (#14917703)
    For emotional satisfaction, it has been helping out with the war on terrorism, and educating government agents about steganography and what types of codes that Al Qaeda might (or might not) be using.

    I would like to ask her if she feels that the amount of fear that people feel today about terrorism is justified? Is Elonka fearful of terrorist cells in our midst? Does she think that we are due for another attack?
    It would be interesting to know what she has to say about the 'War on Terrorism.'
    • Her remark about how "helping out with the war on terrorism" gives her the warm fuzzies suggests to me that she has either absorbed the ambient paranoia or that she is cynically exploiting it. Considering that AQ is a very loose network of Anti-Western religious fanatics, some of them in hiding off the grid, and not a monolithic, top-down organisation of Super-Baddies, I'd guess the latter. Even if she's only saying it gives her the warm fuzzies because she thinks she has to say that to maintain her statu
    • I can't speak for Elonka, but when I was helping (a little) with the codes book which is going to be published Real Soon Now, I got the extremely strong impression that, about Iraq at any rate, she was strongly in favour of robust, informed debate. She filled the book with quotes about the moral and pragmatic issues of war from multiple perspectives for precisely that reason.

      So if I had to guess, if you asked her that question, the answer would almost certainly be along the same lines.

      On a personal note,

      • I can't speak for Elonka, but when I was helping (a little) with the codes book which is going to be published Real Soon Now, I got the extremely strong impression that, about Iraq at any rate, she was strongly in favour of robust, informed debate. She filled the book with quotes about the moral and pragmatic issues of war from multiple perspectives for precisely that reason.

        I couldn't have put it any better myself. You got it exactly right, and I'm glad that that came through, at least to you, one of my

  • These names are just too confusing nowadays is this a KDE project (ElonKa) or a gnome project like Ekiga?
  • I played Gemstone III via GEnie for six years and worked as an associate sysop for the GEnie Multi-Player Games Roundtable for almost that long. I remember Elonka and the folks at Simutronics as one of the main driving forces behind establishing online gaming in the early '90s. Everquest and World of Warcraft owe Simutronics and other early online gaming pioneers like Kesmai a great debt for getting the ball rolling.

    Fifteen years ago, Gemstone had a top simultaneaous limit of 60 players and was apparently
  • Elonka's bio [elonka.com] states she was a USAF avionics tech with the SR-71 and U-2 programs.

    Anyone know her AFSC (Air Force Specialty Code)?

  • who? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @06:06PM (#14919628) Homepage
    I'm interested in cryptography, but could someobody explain to me why anyone should care about this person? Most of the posts so far are something like, "She's so cool! I met her!" or "I went on a date with her, look at me!" But what has she done that is significant other than socializing with the nerds of slashdot? Are there any widely-implemented algorithms to her name? Did she find a novel way to break a cipher? Will I find theories or equations named after her in a crypto textbook?

    I'm hoping someone can post what it is that makes her famous, other than being a girl in one of the geekiest parts domains of CS.
    • " I'm interested in cryptography, but could someobody explain to me why anyone should care about this person?"

      Ah ... Grasshopper ... these are deep secrets embedded in the linked document and decipherable only by those who know the intracacies of the fabled RTFA algorithm!
    • could someobody explain to me why anyone should care about this person

      RTFA. -1 for being a dork. -1 for being lazy. -1 for asking others to tell you what you could have learned yourself in less time than it took you to write your post.

      Good general practice: RTFA, then read the comments.

      (Yeah, yeah, this is /., we cannot expect good practice generally.)

      I'd never heard of her either, until I RTFAd. After RTFAing, I'm glad ScuttleMonkey accepted the article, she's a very interesting person with a way cool

      • I started to read the article. The first few questions told me nothing of why she is famous. That should have been in the blurb. I shouldn't have to search. It should be in the damn blurb.

        And for you: -1 for not answering a question.
        • "I started to read the article. The first few questions told me nothing of why she is famous. That should have been in the blurb. I shouldn't have to search. It should be in the damn blurb."

          I know! The audacity of them! It absolutely should have said Lazy Ass Lord Ender, who is interested in hearing what people have to say only if the person has done something he personally considers to be worth his time, or if they have had a crypto algorithm named after them, will delight in the following facts wh
          • As a member of the /. community, I prefer quality to crap. And blurbs about obscure things that don't explain what they are are crap. Defend crap all you want. Call me lazy. But it's still crap.
            • " As a member of the /. community, I prefer quality to crap."

              If you knew the difference between quality and crap, you would have RTFA and STFU ;-}
  • you "ph33r" Elonka (Score:3, Informative)

    by StankDawg (62183) on Tuesday March 14, 2006 @06:25PM (#14919801) Homepage
    A lot of people are saying some pretty borderline rude things about someone they don't know (not unusual for /.) so let me state that she is, in fact, one of the nicest and most "normal" people I have ever met. I have known Elonka for quite some time. We meet up a couple of times each year at miscellaneous conferences and I consider her a good friend. The fact that she doesn't answer some of these comments probably makes her more "normal" than most of you now doesn't it?

    To make my post more self-promoting, I will point readers to 2 episodes of Binary Revolution Radio [binrev.com] that she was on Here [binrev.com] and Here [binrev.com].

    As far as the personal questions, how about you STFU and GTFO because it is NOYGDB? kthxbye!

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