A gathering of big crypto brains

Thursday, 19 September 2002, 12:54 PM EST

In a lush country hotel 20 miles south of Dublin, the barroom conversation turns to steganography and database vulnerabilities, encryption algorithms and biometric scanners, SWAP files and cookie poisoning.

Not your average pub denizens, the speakers are some of the best-known names in cryptography and security, gathered for one of the industry's best-kept secrets: the annual COSAC conference, held every fall in Ireland.

For nine years, the low-profile, high-caliber event has drawn the cream of the crypto crowd, people like Sun engineer and public key cryptography inventor Whitfield Diffie and Michael Wiener, the man who broke the once widely used encryption algorithm known as Data Encryption Standard (DES).

Attendance is limited to just over 100, sessions are small and participants consider it a COSAC virtue that many speakers never make it through their formal presentations because of enthusiastic audience participation.

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