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NSA Historical Figures

Hilda Faust Mathieu

2018 Hall of Honor Inductee

Women in American Cryptology Honoree

Computer network pioneer Hilda Faust Mathieu was an early advocate recognizing network vulnerabilities and one of the driving forces developing security controls for network protection.

Based on earlier work evaluating conventional cryptomachines, Ms. Mathieu’s review of the security of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) record communication system in the 1960s led her to conclude that the government’s computer networks were vulnerable to attack. One of the first to try to convince the government of the vulnerabilities, she was a major contributor to the 1970 Rand Report and to the U.S. Air Force Computer Technology Planning Study of 1972.  Both addressed alarming security problems in government computer data.

When the Director of NSA established the Department of Defense Computer Security Center in 1981, he appointed Ms. Mathieu Chief of Research and Development for Computer Security. In the mid-1980s, Ms. Mathieu formulated the then-controversial concept that computer network exploitation was a feasible and worthwhile goal. She also recruited the first engineers to begin target development and exploitation. Her vision evolved into a major operational component of NSA.

Hilda Faust Mathieu was instrumental in beginning one of present-day NSA’s largest and most critical operational components. Despite internal opposition, she and a small team convinced senior leadership to acknowledge an innovative new target area.

Ms. Mathieu retired in 1992, before seeing full-scale implementation of her vision and the benefits it would bring to our nation’s security.  Her visionary ideas and practical applications underlie much of what is done today at NSA and United States Cyber Command.