Internet security just dropped a notch

I just read a tweet from Meredith L Patterson stating that Len Sassaman has committed suicide. I don’t know why, but at first I thought it only a silly internet joke, as he was a happy kinda guy, at least public facing. Unfortunately, a punch line didn’t come and reading more of her stream made me realize it is serious. Len was a pioneer in information security, privacy and anonymity, I know because I was fortunate enough to be there and work with him on a few projects. Mind you, I was only using pseudonyms only at the time, and I’m comfortable with that. Also, I was not near the technical calibre he was, I looked up to him. I remember one phone call we had when he got a job working for NAI, the company that had acquired PGP, the first military grade encryption that was open source and free to the world, so we might all protect ourselves from hostile regimes. He was stuck in traffic in his (convertible?) porsche in traffic. To me, he was an example of the good guys winning, you can do what is right for all of us, and be successful. Geeks have a chance, I thought.

We’d lost touch over the last decade, and only had brief contact recently over twitter and IRC; mind you I often use my real name now, so context was lost and I’d have to go through the trust gaining process once again. His impact on information security is unforgettable, John Perry Barlow (EFF and Grateful dead fame) has already commented on it.

UPDATE: I decided to sleep on this before posting, as it doesn’t really do anything but allow me to verbalise my feeling of loss, but I’ve decided I’m OK with that. If you want to do something in his memory, learn to use open source encryption (TrueCrypt, tor and GnuPG for example); a goal he and I have always shared is encrypting all traffic on the internet, so it’s not easily sniffed/read/stolen (most internet traffic is). You will be missed Len, you’re a reminder that we’re all just packets on the internet of life.