Feeds

Crypto pioneer and security chief exits Sun

One in the PKI?

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Crypto pioneer and Sun Microsystems' veteran chief security officer Whitfield Diffie has left the company, with database-giant Oracle's acquisition still in the air.

According to Technology Review, Diffie is slated to be a visiting professor at Royal Holloway, University of London, after 18 years at Sun, latterly in the high-profile security role as chief security officer.

It's unclear why Diffie left Sun and whether his exit was related to Oracle's pending takeover or recent layoffs. Oracle, as ever, declined to comment.

Diffie is famous for his ground-breaking invention of public key cryptography - PKI - in 1975. PKI today is taken for granted because it's used so widely to protect emails, documents, and commerce in every-day online communications and business.

It's worth remembering that it was Diffie who helped make this a reality. He sparred with spooks and US politicians, as the government attempted to limit who could use crypto in the interests of "national security."

Diffie joined Sun in 1991 and in 2002 was named chief security officer, with the mission of leading a global initiative to evangelize Sun's security offerings. He was also tasked with talking about major issues in relation to technology security.

It was during one such talking engagement that Diffie defended open source from an attack by Microsoft's then chief security officer Craig Mundie at an RSA Conference in 2002. Mundie had called it a "myth" that open-source code can be more secure than closed, proprietary software.

Diffie, an original and articulate thinker in an industry driven by hype and the herd mentality, argued while open-source wasn't inherently any more secure, it let users audit the code.

"You - the enterprise - have a moral responsibility to audit that code," Diffie responded.

Diffie was not involved in day-to-day product or strategy for Sun, but his loss is somewhat awkward. Sun built up a brains trust of top thinkers and leading achievers in languages and systems during the years. Watching such people go will give the perception of a brain drain and lack of continuity during a delicate period, where thousands of staff have already been cut.

Sun's somewhat academic culture was designed to let ideas and thinking from such people flourish. The culture couldn't be much more different to Oracle, a company known for making its dollars count rather than indulging meta thinking or hiring leading industry ideas people. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
Special pleading against mass surveillance won't help anyone
Protecting journalists alone won't protect their sources
Phones 4u website DIES as wounded mobe retailer struggles to stay above water
Founder blames 'ruthless network partners' for implosion
Apple's iPhone 6 first-day sales are MEANINGLESS, mutters analyst
Big weekend queues only represent fruity firm's supply
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Bill Gates, drugs and the internet: Top 10 Larry Ellison quotes
'I certainly never expected to become rich ... this is surreal'
Big Content Australia just blew a big hole in its credibility
AHEDA's research on average content prices did not expose methodology, so appears less than rigourous
EMC, HP blockbuster 'merger' shocker comes a cropper
Stand down, FTC... you can put your feet up for a bit
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.