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MIT wins prestigious award for Kerberos work


MIT has been awarded the Mellon Award for Technology Collaboration in recognition of the Institute's 20 years of work on developing and supporting Kerberos, the world's most widely used authentication system for computer networks. 

Vinton Cerf, chief evangelist at Google and one of the original pioneers of the Internet, presented the award on behalf of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation during a Dec. 8 ceremony in Washington.

"MIT's contribution of Kerberos to the higher-education community may rank as the most successful such donation in history," Cerf said. "Kerberos is used hundreds of millions of times daily, in all Windows computers and thousands of higher-education institutions worldwide. In selecting MIT for this award for Kerberos, our committee noted MIT's long-term support of the project, as well as their exemplary record of supporting others who wish to use Kerberos."

Kerberos was invented in the 1980s as part of Project Athena, led by Professor Steven Lerman, now MIT's vice chancellor and dean for graduate education, and by Professor Emeritus Jerry Saltzer, and has been maintained and expanded by the team in Information Services and Technology under Vice President Jerrold Grochow. 
In 2007, MIT formed the Kerberos Consortium and charged it with the mission of establishing Kerberos as the universal authentication system for the world's computer networks. The consortium now includes 20 Founding Sponsors, including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Sun, the Department of Defense, NASA, other corporate organizations, and 10 other universities. Stephen C. Buckley serves as executive director.
The Kerberos Consortium will use the $100,000 in award proceeds toward further improving the interoperability of Kerberos across a multiplicity of platforms and devices.

The Mellon Award for Technology Collaboration comes in two levels, $50,000 and $100,000. Winners of the $100,000 awards are chosen for having distinguished themselves by demonstrating extraordinary leadership, usually over an extended period of time, of one or more projects.

This year, two institutions received $100,000 awards, while nine received $50,000.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 10, 2008 (download PDF).

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