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Securing the World's Cyber Infrastructure

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CSIS Seminar

“Scrambling for Privacy” - Inside the Encryption Wars 1986-2000 and the battle over privacy, security, and the future of a secure Internet

Speaker:   James Bidzos, CEO/Founder of Verisign
When:   March 25, 2024, 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm
Where:   Merten Hall, Room 1204


Public-key cryptography, or PKC, first appeared in the late 1970s, as a proposed solution to the problem of security over future open networks, where parties wishing to communicate or transact securely may have no prior relationship, and authentication, via digital signatures, would be required. Interest and research, while lively, was mostly scientific and academic until the 1980s when modest commercialization efforts began. And today, PKC is everywhere. There is broad and deep deployment in network infrastructure, protocols, operating systems, browsers, email, smartphones, smartcards, and numerous applications. The impact is considerable; PKC has enabled global Internet usage, especially e-commerce, to rapidly grow. But the path to the outcome we see today was neither smooth nor certain. Technology often gets ahead of policy, especially in the Internet age. In the 1980s and 1990s, PKC collided with national security, law enforcement, civil liberties, and the security needs of the emerging digital economy. Today's speaker was at the forefront of the 15-year struggle for a balance, and will share that history from the inside, including lessons learned from building two companies along the way. And while the conflicts were mostly resolved by 2000, issues remain today.

Speaker Bio

Jim Bidzos is the Chairman, CEO, and president of Reston-headquartered Verisign, Inc., a technology services provider he, along with Ron Rivest, founded in 1995 by spinning it out of RSA Data Security, Inc. From 1986 until 2000, he was also the CEO of RSA Data Security, Inc., a company founded by MIT Professors Ron Rivest, Adi Shamir, and Len Adleman, the inventors of the RSA public-key crypto-system. He also founded the RSA Conference in 1991, which is today the definitive annual cybersecurity event, drawing over 50,000 participants each year, to discuss technology, policy, and much more.