Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers Shafi Goldwasser and Silvio Micali are the joint recipients of the 2012 A.M. Turing Award for their work in cryptography, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) announced today.

Goldwasser and Micali worked together to pioneer the field of provable security, which laid the mathematical foundations that made modern cryptography possible, the ACM said.

The ACM has handed out the A.M. Turing Award each year since 1966. The award, named after British mathematician Alan M. Turing, is given to one or more individuals for their technical contributions to the computing community. The award includes a US$250,000 prize, with financial support provided by Google and Intel.

“The encryption schemes running in today’s browsers meet their notions of security,” said Vint Cerf, ACM president and former Turing Award recipient. “The method of encrypting credit card numbers when shopping on the Internet also meets their test. We are indebted to these recipients for their innovative approaches to ensuring security in the digital age.”

By formalizing the concept that cryptographic security had to be computational rather than absolute, Goldwasser and Micali created mathematical structures that turned cryptography from an art into a science, the ACM explained. Their work addresses important practical problems such as the protection of data from being viewed or modified, providing a secure means of communications and transactions over the Internet, the ACM said.

Their advances led to the notion of interactive and probabilistic proofs, and had a profound impact on computational complexity, an area that focuses on classifying computational problems according to their inherent difficulty, according to the ACM.

Shafi Goldwasser is the RSA Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT, and a principal investigator at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL), as well as a professor of computer science and applied mathematics at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

Silvio Micali is the Ford Professor of Engineering at MIT, and a principal investigator at CSAIL.

The ACM will present the 2012 A.M. Turing Award to Goldwasser and Micali at its annual Awards Banquet on June 15, 2013, in San Francisco.