June 06

Phil Zimmermann

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. He is also known for his work in VoIP encryption protocols, notably ZRTP and Zfone.

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 in 1978, and currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He was one of the first to make asymmetric, or public key, encryption software readily available to the general public. He released the source code to PGP, and shortly thereafter, it became available overseas via the Internet, though Zimmermann has said he had no part in its distribution outside the US. After a report from RSA Data Security, Inc., who were in a licensing dispute with regard to use of the RSA algorithm in PGP, the Customs Service started a criminal investigation of Zimmermann, for allegedly violating the Arms Export Control Act. The US Government had long regarded cryptographic software as a munition, and thus subject to arms trafficking export controls. At that time, the boundary between permitted ("low strength") cryptography and impermissible ("high strength") cryptography placed PGP well on the too-strong-to-export side (this boundary has since been relaxed). 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 now serves as a special advisor and consultant to that firm. 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.

In the very first version of PGP, an encryption algorithm was given the humorous name BassOmatic (after a skit on Saturday Night Live) and Pretty Good Privacy itself is named after a Lake Wobegon fictional grocery store named "Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery".

In popular culture

Zimmermann's name appears in the novel The Da Vinci Code:


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


The Official PGP User's Guide, MIT Press, 1995

PGP Source Code and Internals, MIT Press, 1995

See also


External links

Search another word or see June 06on Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature