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Dorothy Denning


With a B.A. and M.A. in mathematics from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. in computer science from Purdue, Dorothy Denning is currently a Distinguished Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School. Introduced to computer security work in her first graduate school course on operating systems, Denning is perhaps best known for her 1976 publication, "A Lattice Model of Secure Information Flow," which established a mathematical basis for enforcing information security on a computer system.(1) Denning served as a computer science professor at Purdue from 1975 to 1983. While teaching a course on computer security in the late 1970s, Denning determined that none of the existing textbooks addressed the latest developments in computer security, such as the Diffie-Hellman paper on public key cryptography, or its subsequent practical implementations. In 1982, Denning completed Cryptography and Data Security, which became a standard text in the burgeoning field of computer security.(2) This publication coincided with a growing controversy between the National Security Agency and security researchers. The NSA stated that divulging cryptographic techniques to the public posed a national security threat. Denning did not agree, although she would later change her position on public cryptography.(3)

In 1983, Denning joined the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), where she continued her work in computer security, developing a system for intrusion detection. In 1987, she examined graphics and interfaces at Digital Equipment Corporation's Palo Alto research center. In the early 1990s, Denning pursued her interest in hacker culture, writing about the public misconceptions of young hackers -- a position she would later recant. In 1991, Denning became chair of the Georgetown University Computer Science Department, remaining at Georgetown until 2002, when she joined the Naval Postgraduate School as a professor and Department of Defense analyst. She has continued to write numerous articles, book chapters, and essays regarding computer security and related topics, including privacy, hacking, and cyber terror. (4)(5)(6)

Interviewed for CBI oral history: 4/11/2013.


1 : lock Dorothy E. Denning, "A Lattice Model of Secure Information Flow," 236-238, in Communications of the ACM 19, no. 5 (May 1976), 236-243. (Login required)

2 : Denning-CryptographyDataSecurity.pdf: Digital version of Denning, D. E., Cryptography and Data Security, Addison‑Wesley, May 1982.

3 , 4 : Steven Levy, "Clipper Chick: Changing sides in the government's war against piracy, Dorothy Denning went from hacker hero to one of the most hated people on the Net," Wired, Issue 4.09 (September 1996).

5 : http://faculty.nps.edu/dedennin/NPS%20vita%20for%20Dorothy%20E_%20Denning.htm

6 : http://faculty.nps.edu/dedennin/

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