Burton S. Kaliski, Jr.

Chief Scientist
RSA Data Security, Inc.

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Burt Kaliski is with the RSA Laboratories in Bedford, Massachusetts, at the headquarters of Security Dynamics. As chief scientist he is responsible for the direction and management of RSA Laboratories and is also involved in a number of technical activities. RSA Laboratories also has an office in Redwood City, California, at the headquarters of RSA Data Security, which was acquired by Security Dynamics in July 1996.

"The purpose of RSA Laboratories," explains Burt, "is to provide expertise on cryptography and information security for the benefit of RSA Data Security, Security Dynamics, and their customers. RSA Laboratories seeks to provide an academic environment within the commercial setting of the two companies, and as such is an active participant in the cryptography research community."

"RSA Laboratories operates as a team distributed between the two offices. Our staff currently consists of nine people, four in Bedford and five in Redwood City. Among the nine, five hold Ph.D.'s in mathematics or computer science, one an MBA in operations research, two hold bachelor's degrees, and one is currently in college. We also have three professors who are 'distinguished associates' of RSA Laboratories."

Burt has a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in computer science from MIT. He started work as a cryptographic systems scientist with RSA Data Security in 1989, after spending a brief time as a software engineer and as a visiting assistant professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. He has been chief scientist since about 1991 when RSA Laboratories was formed.

"Although I had been looking for a university position when I finished my Ph.D.," he recalls, "my interests were also very much on the application side, and RSA offered a convincing mix. RSA's president, Jim Bidzos, was committed to the academic nature of the position, which gave me the long-term option I was seeking. A senior professor at the university I was visiting at the time saw the potential of the position at RSA and encouraged me to pursue it."

"What I enjoy about a job in industry is the opportunity to see what people are actually doing with technology, and to provide a bridge from theory to practice. The technological needs of customers are very close at hand to us at RSA Laboratories, which provides ample motivation for our research work."

Burt recommends a number of mathematics course for someone interested in his area: cryptology, number theory, complexity theory, analysis of algorithms, discrete mathematics, and coding theory. "Mathematics is the cornerstone of cryptography," he notes. "It plays a role in many of our research activities, from algorithm development to implementation to cryptanalysis. For example, we recently addressed concerns about the requirements that prime numbers should satisfy for cryptographic purposes. Mathematics (number theory in particular) helped us to assess the practicality of a variety of cryptanalytic techniques and to provide appropriate answers to the concerns."

"Among the relevant non-mathematics courses, I would include information systems security, software engineering (focusing on architecture and design), programming (including assembly language), and writing (we do a lot of that)."

His advice to those looking for a job in industry: "Think about what you're really interested in --- not just what you've been doing as a student. Industry can provide opportunities to work on interesting problems, even if they're not always mathematical. In the end, mathematics and mathematical reasoning often leads to the best technical answer."


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