Profile: FBI Special Agent Mitchell Thompson Fights Cybercrime

Law-enforcement agencies around the globe are hiring cyberexperts to outwit criminals

3 min read
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Photo-illustration: Rafe Swan/Getty Images

photo-illustration of keyboardPhoto-illustration: Rafe Swan/Getty Images

It’s not easy to drop in on Mitchell Thompson at work. After removing my shoes for airport-like security, I follow my escort down a hallway to a thick glass door. She scans her badge and punches in a code to gain entry. Behind the door awaits a protected bank of elevators reserved for employees of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
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Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush
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Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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