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October 27, 2011

World-renowned cryptographer admits ‘the bad guys are winning’

Dr. Taher Elgamal, the father of SSL, says security industry is losing the battle and must win the war. But what can be done?

By Jason Stamper

Taher Elgamal father of SSL

Dr. Taher Elgamal, chief security officer at Axway and the ‘father’ of SSL

Dr. Taher Elgamal, a world-renowned cryptographer known as the father of SSL, said in an interview with CBR that, "The bad guys are winning."

Dr. Elgamal is a cryptographer of worldwide repute, one of the brains behind secure sockets layer (SSL), former chief scientist at Netscape and now chief security officer at Axway.

Asked whether the industry, organisations and individuals are doing enough to ‘beat’ the bad guys – spammers, peddlers of malware and other online fraudsters and phishers – Dr. Elgamal said that more needs to be done. "I am afraid to say that today, I would have to say that the bad guys are winning," he said in an interview with CBR. "And I would say that in the sense that online fraud is much higher now than before the Internet. So on that basis, yes, they [the bad guys] are winning."

Dr. Elgamal noted that the Internet is being used in ways today that were probably never envisaged by Tim Berners-Lee. In response, security technologies, approaches and even security awareness has failed to keep pace with the sheer inventiveness of those intent on fraud.

"If online becomes involved in or plays a part in almost everything we do as a society, then one percent of that being attacked by some sort of fraud is way too much," Dr. Elgamal said.

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Asked what more should be done by governments, organisations or individuals to better fight cybercrime, Dr. Elgamal said, "It’s got a lot to do with the day-to-day. If every organisation invested in one more person to do day-to-day security management it would pay off dramatically."

"There is no silver bullet," he added. "It’s about investing in the day-to-day. But with the right investment, policy and technology, we can catch a lot of this earlier. As with the medical profession found with diseases, if you catch things earlier there is a dramatically better outcome."

Bookmark CBR now to keep an eye out for our forthcoming in-depth Q&A with Dr. Taher Elgamal.

Readers who read this article also read ‘How the Sun was hacked and Murdoch ‘died’


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