PGP creator Zimmerman joins Hush

Privacy guru joins Irish startup as chief cryptographer

One of the founding fathers of modern cryptography, Phil Zimmermann -- who created PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) and thus introduced a generation of computer users to email encryption -- has left the security firm Network Associates to join Irish-based encryption startup Hushmail.

Zimmermann was at the forefront of the battle to give ordinary Internet users access to email encryption in the 1990s. When he released the first version of PGP in 1991, Zimmermann faced a three-year FBI investigation. Encryption was still viewed as a threat to the US government's intelligence operations and classified military munitions.

By creating PGP and distributing it on the Internet, Zimmermann also helped widen the use of public key cryptography, developed by Whitfield Diffie and Martin Helman, which allows computer users to communicate in privacy without having to first physically exchange keys. Public key cryptography forms the basis of secure financial transactions over the Internet. Since then, Zimmermann has worked to develop an open standard for secure Internet email communications, dubbed OpenPGP.

Hush has been at the forefront of more recent developments in cryptography, including creating a free Internet-based email encryption service, Hushmail.com.

"For the past decade PGP has been the gold standard for email encryption but we've always had trouble expanding beyond the power users because of ease-of-use problems," Zimmermann said in a statement. "The OpenPGP standard will be well served by Hush's fresh approach to ease of use and its roaming capability. Further, Hush has a consistent track record of publishing its source code."

Jon Matonis, president and chief executive of Hush Communications, welcomed Zimmermann's appointment, stating: "Phil's contribution to the field of cryptography and his commitment to privacy are unrivalled."

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