Securing the future

Article published in The Spring Review 2010
Author: Dave Howell

Dr Taher Elgamal is one of the most important cryptographers in the history of the Internet, having helped to create both SSL and digital signature technology. The Review talks to him about the current state of his inventions and other pressing digital security issues.

The development of the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) – now superseded by the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocols – has been pivotal in the development of the Internet as a commercial environment. Without SSL, eCommerce could not have developed, as it provided the all-important secure connection between a customer’s browser and the server of the business they wanted to buy from.

SSL inventor Dr Taher Elgamal, now Chief Security Officer at business software company Axway, Inc., is also the creator of the Elgamal Cryptosystem, the foundation for modern elliptic-curve ciphers, which is used in many commercial encryption products. In addition, he has developed numerous technologies and standards for data security and digital signature, including the cryptographic basis for the Digital Signature Standard. He also participated in the development of the SET (Secure Electronic Transaction) protocol that is used to secure credit card transactions.

Dr Elgamal was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Information Security at the 2009 RSA Conference.

About Dr Taher Elgamal

• Born in Egypt in 1955
• Holds a BSc in Computer Science from Cairo University and an MSC and PhD in Computer Science from Stanford University in the US
• In 1985, he published a paper titled ‘A Public key Cryptosystem and A Signature Scheme based on discrete Logarithms’ in which he proposed the design of the ElGamal discrete log cryptosystem and the ElGamal signature scheme
• From 1995 to 1998 he was Chief Scientist at Netscape Communications, where he was a driving force behind the development of SSL
• He has public company board experience with RSA Security, where he was Director of Engineering
• Currently Chief Security Officer at Axway, Inc. and advisor to a number of other technology companies
• He received the RSA Conference Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009