Now, the word cryptography in itself might not be reflective of any thing important to you, however with the sheer increase in internet penetration and online payments, cryptography practices are used in every aspect of digital communication and data interchange that you can imagine, in order to keep this transmitted digitized data secure over any untrusted medium, which includes just about any network, particularly the Internet!
In essence Cryptography is the science of writing in “secret code” and is actually an ancient art; the first documented use of cryptography in writing dates back to circa 1900 B.C. when an Egyptian scribe used non-standard hieroglyphs in an inscription. Some experts argue that cryptography appeared spontaneously sometime after writing was invented, with applications ranging from diplomatic missives to war-time battle plans. It is no surprise, then, that new forms of cryptography came soon after the widespread development of computer communications.
To many the name Taher El Gamal is really an unknown, other than just another Arabic name for some guy, right!? Well, here’s his story.
Taher El Gamal was born in Egypt in 1955, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Cairo in 1977. Taher then left for the US where he earned his Masters and Doctorate degrees in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University in 1981 and 1984, respectively.
In 1984 El Gamal joined the technical staff at Hewlette-Packard Labs, where he published a paper titled A Public Key Cryptosystem and A Signature Scheme based on discrete Logarithms in which he proposed the design of two very important encryption algorithms, the ElGamal discrete log cryptosystem and the ElGamal signature scheme.
The ElGamal signature scheme became the basis of the well know cryptographic algorithm DSA or Digital Signature Algorithm, which was proposed for standardization in 1991 by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for use in their Digital Signature Standard - DSS.
In 1995 El Gamal became Chief Scientist at Netscape Communications and was a driving force behind SSL or Secure Sockets Layer, which is a cryptographic protocol that provided communication security over the internet using the 2-Key generation technique, a public key and a private key that are used in encrypting and decrypting data between the sender and receiver.
In 1996 El Gamal was also part of a task force involved with companies such as GTE, IBM, Microsoft, Netscape, RSA, Safelayer and Verisign for developing SET or Secure Electronic Transaction, which was a standard protocol for securing credit card transactions over insecure networks, such as the Internet. Eventually SET failed to gain traction and companies like VISA started promoting other alternatives such as the 3-D Secure scheme.
El Gamal also joined RSA Security Inc, as Director of Engineering, before leaving in 1998 to become CEO and Founder of Securify. In 2008 Securify was acquired by Secure Computing and is now part of McAfee.
In 2006 EL Gamal joined Tumbleweed Communications as CTO; Tumbleweed was later acquired by Axway Inc. in 2008.
El Gamal also continues to serve as an advisor to many tech companies such as Onset Ventures, Glenbrook Partners, PGP Corporation, Arcot Systems, Finjan, Facetime, Simplified, Zetta and serves as Chief Security Officer of Axway, Inc. He is also Vice Chairman of Secure Misr.
So with Taher EL Gamal around, can we “safely” say that data communications in and out of Egypt is secure?