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CRYPTO 2013: Day 0

August 19, 2013

This week I’ll post a series of dispatches from the CRYPTO conference. Since this is the Day 0 of the conference, I’ll use it to lay some background for the uninitiated.

This is the 33rd installment of the conference, which has gone from a small gathering of people excited about the newly emergent technology and worried about privacy of their communications to a large gathering of people still sharing much of the same sentiments.

For CRYPTO regulars mentioning the location of the conference is redundant: CRYPTO has always been on the UC Santa Barbara campus, and it seems like it always will be there. The only trivia-worthy fact is that UCSB is not in Santa Barbara proper but rather a few miles away in the community of Goleta.

The CRYPTO conference is run by the International Association for Cryptologic Research (IACR), which is not affiliated with ACM, IEEE, or SIAM. The reason why cryptographers struck out on their own are mostly historic but this arrangement has far-reaching consequences. IACR runs its own journal, has its own fellows program, manages its relationship with publishers, and even operates its own pre-print server.

Compared to major theory conferences, CRYPTO is large. Typical attendance varies between 300 and 500 people. In addition to the usual suspects – academics, industry types – one is likely to run into participants with uncertain affiliations who don’t appear in the attendees list (“I work for the government, and I’m based in Virginia” – a real answer I once got).

For an outsider’s view I recommend the New Yorker article (behind a paywall) whose author made a pilgrimage to CRYPTO 2011 in search of the elusive creator of the Bitcoin protocol. (Spoiler alert: the Bitcoin author is still unknown.) The New Yorker correspondent was impressed with titles of some CRYPTO papers (“Leftover Hash Lemma, Revisited” and “Time-Lock Puzzles in the Random Oracle Model”) but it seems that some of the finer points were lost on him. I wonder what he might think of this year’s titles such as “Fuming Acid and Cryptanalysis” or “Bounds in Shallows and in Miseries”.

The structure of the conference and even much of its menu options haven’t change in years – shrimps and chocolate-covered strawberries on Sunday, opening and the first invited talk on Monday, rump session on Tuesday, second invited talk, business meeting and “don’t forget your sweater” beach barbecue on Wednesday, quantum crypto on Thursday. And yet this year’s conference is a big experiment – the number of accepted papers has increased substantially from 48 last year to 61 – all in a single-track format! Surely, this is going to be a subject of numerous conversations during (fairly short) breaks.

With this, we interrupt our programming to prepare for Day 1 of the conference.

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