Hardware Reference
In-Depth Information
History of PGP
The software used in this chapter would have once been considered a munition by the U.S.
Government. Exporting it without a license from the government, would have violated the
International Traffic in Arms Regulations ( ITAR ). As late as the early 1990s, crypto-
graphy was heavily controlled and restricted. While the early 90s are filled with numerous
accounts by crypto-activists, all of which are well documented in Steven Levy's Crypto ,
there is one man in particular who was the driving force behind the software in this project:
Philip Zimmerman.
Philip Zimmerman had a small pet project around the year 1990, which he called Pretty
Good Privacy . Motivated by a strong childhood passion for codes and ciphers, combined
with a sense of political activism against a government capable of strong electronic surveil-
lance, he set out to create a strong encryption program for the people (Levy 2001).
One incident in particular helped to motivate Zimmerman to finish PGP and publish his
work. This was the language that the then U.S. Senator Joseph Biden added to Senate Bill
#266, which would mandate that:
"Providers of electronic communication services and manufacturers of electronic
communications service equipment shall ensure that communication systems permit
the government to obtain the plaintext contents of voice, data, and other communica-
tions when appropriately authorized by law."
In 1991, in a rush to release PGP 1.0 before it was illegal, Zimmerman released his soft-
ware as a freeware to the Internet. Subsequently, after PGP spread, the U.S. Government
opened a criminal investigation on Zimmerman for the violation of the U.S. export laws.
Zimmerman, in what is best described as a legal hack , published the entire source code of
PGP, including instructions on how to scan it back into digital form, as a topic. As Zimmer-
man describes:
"It would be politically difficult for the Government to prohibit the export of a topic that anyone may find in a public library or a bookstore."
--(Zimmerman, 1995)
A topic published in the public domain would no longer fall under ITAR export controls.
The genie was out of the bottle; the government dropped its case against Zimmerman in
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