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How we can save PGP – Zimmermann

Sharpen your pencils...

PGP inventor Phil Zimmermann says PGP can be saved, and has outlined how in an interview with The Register yesterday.

"PGP is an institution that's bigger than any single company, or codebase, or product," says Zimmermann. "It's in limbo right now, and limbo is a bad place to be."

Network Associates Inc wrote to customers last week informing them that it was ceasing development on PGP Desktop, and while promising to honor existing support contracts, said no bugfixes or updates would be issued. PGP staff were being transferred to Network Associates other business units. The company, which bought PGP Inc in 1997 for $36 million announced it wanted to find a buyer for PGP last November, but hasn't found an acceptable offer yet.

Zimmermann said he wanted NAI to release the source code, suggesting a Berkeley-style license, and hoped to encourage development around the Open PGP standard:

"The demise of the PGP business unit at NA is not the demise of the open PGP standard; there are other companies that implement the product that use the standard. Go to and you'll find a lot of concerned people that want to fill this niche."

"Anyone interested in helping should contact me," he added.

Zimmermann said he'd welcome a big name sponsor - we suggested an Apple, or an HP - to back OpenPGP development. Right now, he admitted, the free software versions needed a slick GUI to bring them up to the fit and finish of the PGP equivalents.

PGP's Desktop, a slick and well-regarded personal privacy suite which included an encrypted file system for Windows and the Macintosh, and integration with ICQ, is no longer available for download, and you can't find anything except the enterprise products at PGP's "evaluation" page.

This leaves Mac OS X and Windows XP users in a fix, as the current PGP products aren't compatible with the new operating systems.

And what's scandalous is that NAI has OS X and XP-ready versions, but won't ship them.

Zimmermann first published Pretty Good Privacy in 1991, and left Network Associates a year ago. He declined to comment on NAI's stewardship of the software, although Register readers, including many PGP users, haven't been nearly so diplomatic.

It's a good time to remind NAI of its responsibilities to its customers, to the PGP community, and remind potential purchasers of the value of privacy software. ®

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