Moti Yung PhD ‘88 Named Fellow of the Academy of Arts and Sciences

Computer scientist and cryptography expert is among 269 fellows elected to the academy for outstanding achievements in academia, the arts, business, government, and public affairs.

May 01 2023 | By Bernadette Ocampo Young | Photo Credit: Moti Yung
Academy of Arts and Sciences Fellow Moti Yung

Moti Yung. Credit: Moti Yung

Moti Yung, a 1988 PhD graduate of computer science, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is among 269 artists, scholars, scientists, and leaders in the public, non-profit, and private sectors elected to the Academy, which was founded in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock, and others who believed the new republic should honor exceptionally accomplished individuals and engage them in advancing the public good. Election to the Academy is a prestigious recognition of outstanding achievements in academia, the arts, business, government, and public affairs.

An expert in cryptography, Yung is an information security and data privacy researcher with Google. He also holds a joint appointment with the Department of Computer Science as an adjunct senior research scientist and has co-advised PhD students, including Gödel Prize winner Matthew K. Franklin, Jonathan Katz, Adam L. Young, and Aggelos Kiayias.

During his PhD, he worked with Dean Emeritus Zvi Galil on formalizing and implementing fundamental cryptographic mechanisms. As an adjunct faculty at Columbia Engineering he co-advised Adam L. Young, and the two of them defined malicious (offensive) cryptography, realizing that any technology proposed for security may be, in turn, abused itself. 

In 1996, the two coined the term “cryptovirology” to define how cryptography could be used as an attack weapon via computer viruses and other malware, in contrast to its traditional protective role. This work was both a warning about what is now called ransomware but also suggested protection against these attacks. Yung and Young also introduced the notion of kleptography, a subfield of cryptovirology, that studies the stealing of information securely and subliminally (a method alleged to be employed by governments against their citizens). 

For his work on cryptovirology, Yung received the IEEE Symposium on Security and Privacy's Test of Time Award for his 1996 paper on cryptovirology, as well as the IACR’s Public Key Cryptography Conference's Test of Time Award for his 1998 paper on proving the security of ElGamal encryption. Among his numerous honors is the 2021 IEEE Computer Society’s Computer Pioneer Award.

Yung is a fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery, the International Association for Cryptologic Research (IACR), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the European Association for Theoretical Computer Science. He received his BS and MS from Tel-Aviv University in 1982 and his PhD from Columbia University in 1988.

He is among the six Columbians elected this year including Lila Abu-Lughod, professor of social science; Jelani Cobb, dean of Columbia Journalism School; Franklin D. Costantini, professor of genetics and development; Sankar Ghosh, chairman in the Department of Microbiology & Immunology; and Gillian E. Metzger, professor of constitutional law.

Stay up-to-date with the Columbia Engineering newsletter

* indicates required