Father of SSL, Dr. Taher Elgamal, finds fast-moving IT projects in the Middle East

Often called the "father of SSL" due to his role as a cryptographer at Netscape Communications where in the mid-'90s he helped bring SSL encryption to the Web, Dr. Taher Elgamal now travels the Middle East as an IT consultant and project coordinator for business and government there.

As CEO of Dubai-based First Information Security, Elgamal works in places such as the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Egypt -- the country where he was born and raised, graduating from Cairo University to then go to the U.S. to attend Stanford University for advanced research in crypto, the start of a distinguished IT career. Elgamal says despite the obvious turmoil seen in parts of the Middle East, it's a region where modernization through technology is occurring at a fast clip, much as it is in other areas of the world.

BACKGROUND: Father of SSL says despite attacks, the security linchpin has lots of life left

"People use social media more over there than here," said Elgamal, an Egyptian-American who still resides in Silicon Valley, that fabled narrow stretch of California where so much Internet-based technology has been created by so many. In the Middle East, it's easy to get the impression that everyone is carrying around even more mobile phones than the U.S., he adds.

In the countries he visits, he says some types of e-commerce, such as online banking, are just getting ramped up. But governments, financial institutions and other businesses, such as petroleum producers, are investing in modern networks, applications and security much as would happen anywhere else. Saudi Arabia in particular is very busy that way now, he adds. Cloud computing is just as hot a topic in the Middle East as in the U.S. or elsewhere, he points out.

The Internet and modern communications of all kinds are bringing about less of a closed society with more Westernization of it, he says. But he retains poignant, fond memories of childhood and youth spent with family and friends in a simpler time in Egypt, saying it's like this "old country has disappeared."

When he recalls the early expansion of the global Web when SSL was regarded as a boon to e-commerce security, Elgamal says SSL clearly was a benefit but that no doubt there were many instances where "marketing exaggerated things" about SSL to encourage people to try Web-based shopping, which was new.

Elgamal is one of the few individuals in the world with crypto systems named after them based on their research, in this case, the "ElGamal crypto system" and "ElGamal digital signature," with the spelling of his name into English from the Arabic over the decades undergoing various transliterations, including "El-Gamal."

Over the past few years, SSL has faced a number of attacks to discredit it as vulnerable, but Elgamal points out there's "not a single case of fraud being done because anything was broken in SSL." He said he deems storage and inadequate passwords to be counted among the "weakest links" when it comes to security.

Ellen Messmer is senior editor at Network World, an IDG publication and website, where she covers news and technology trends related to information security. Twitter: @MessmerE. Email: emessmer@nww.com.

Read more about wide area network in Network World's Wide Area Network section.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags NetscapesecurityTaher ElgamalencryptionSSLStanford University

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Ellen Messmer

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place