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Phil Zimmermann

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Subject: Pretty Good Privacy, BassOmatic, ZRTP, Dark Mail Alliance, Zfone
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Phil Zimmermann

Phil Zimmermann
Born (1954-02-12) February 12, 1954
Camden, New Jersey
Known for Creator of Pretty Good Privacy

Philip R. "Phil" Zimmermann, Jr. (born February 12, 1954) is the creator of Pretty Good Privacy (PGP), the most widely used email encryption software in the world.[1] He is also known for his work in VoIP encryption protocols, notably ZRTP and Zfone. Zimmermann is currently the president and co-founder of the global encrypted communications firm, Silent Circle.


He was born in Camden, New Jersey. His father was a concrete mixer truck driver. Zimmermann received a B.S. degree in computer science from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida in 1978, and thereafter moved to the San Francisco Bay Area.


In 1991, he wrote the popular Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) program, and made it available (together with its source code) through public FTP for download, the first widely available program implementing public-key cryptography. Shortly thereafter, it became available overseas via the Internet, though Zimmermann has said he had no part in its distribution outside the US.

The very first version of PGP included an encryption algorithm, BassOmatic, developed by Zimmermann.[2]

Criminal investigation

After a report from RSA Data Security, Inc., who were in a licensing dispute with regard to the use of the RSA algorithm in PGP, the United States Customs Service started a criminal investigation of Zimmermann, for allegedly violating the Arms Export Control Act.[3] The United States Government had long regarded cryptographic software as a munition, and thus subject to arms trafficking export controls. At that time, the boundary between what cryptography was permitted ("low-strength") and impermissible ("high-strength") for export from the United States was placed such that PGP fell on the too-strong-to-export side of the boundary. The boundary for legal export has since been raised and now allows PGP to be exported. The investigation lasted three years, but was finally dropped without filing charges.

After the government dropped its case without indictment in early 1996, Zimmermann founded PGP Inc. and released an updated version of PGP and some additional related products. That company was acquired by Network Associates (NAI) in December 1997, and Zimmermann stayed on for three years as a Senior Fellow. NAI decided to drop the product line and in 2002, PGP was acquired from NAI by a new company called PGP Corporation. Zimmermann served as a special advisor and consultant to that firm until Symantec acquired PGP Corporation in 2010.[1] Zimmermann is also a fellow at the Stanford Law School's Center for Internet and Society. He was a principal designer of the cryptographic key agreement protocol (the "association model") for the Wireless USB standard.

Along with Mike Janke he created Silent Circle.[4]

Zimmerman's Law

In 2013, an article on Zimmerman's Law quoted Phil Zimmerman as saying The natural flow of technology tends to move in the direction of making surveillance easier, and the ability of computers to track us doubles every eighteen months.[5]

Awards and other recognition

Zimmermann has received numerous technical and humanitarian awards for his pioneering work in cryptography:

Simon Singh's The Code Book devotes an entire chapter to Zimmermann and PGP.[12]


  • The Official PGP User's Guide, MIT Press, 1995[13]
  • PGP Source Code and Internals, MIT Press, 1995[14]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Phil Zimmerman's Homepage: Background". Retrieved 2012-01-12. 
  2. ^ Mollin, Richard A. (2007). An introduction to cryptography.  
  3. ^  
  4. ^
  5. ^ Om Malik (2013-08-11). "Zimmermann's Law: PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder Phil Zimmermann on the surveillance society — Tech News and Analysis".  
  6. ^ 2012 Inductees, Internet Hall of Fame website. Last accessed April 24, 2012
  7. ^ "Top 50 Tech Visionaries"
  8. ^ 25 Most Influential and Innovative Products introduced since the invention of the PC in 1981
  9. ^ 35 Heroes of Freedom Reason, December 2003 Retrieved April 10, 2007
  10. ^ CRN Industry Hall of Fame
  11. ^ "Top 10 Innovators in E-business".
  12. ^  
  13. ^  
  14. ^  

External links

  • – Official site
  • Why I wrote PGP
  • Conversation With Phil Zimmermann, Mikael Pawlo, GrepLaw, June 6, 2003.
  • E-mail security hero takes on VoIP, Declan McCullagh, C|net, 15 August 2006.
  • VON Pioneers: Philip Zimmermann Encrypts VoIP, VON Magazine, Jan 2007.
  • Silent Circle – Global Encrypted Communications Service
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