In the 1990s, it was clear that Sun Microsystems was the pioneer and primary driver of the Internet in business. Since everyone was afraid that it was an open protocol in which everyone could find something, one of the main concerns was securing Internet protocols for business. That is why the X25 protocol was used by everyone until the end of the 1990s, and in particular by banks and other financial institutions. The Internet was introduced very slowly.
Sun Microsystems separately launched a program called First Person. Later, this program formed the basis of Sun Security and Java and many other exciting projects. The Sun office that worked on this program was in Palo Alto, and we (Elvis+) were Sun partners. I worked in this direction. This department was headed by Jeffrey Baer, who reported directly to Eric Schmidt, CTO of Sun Microsystems.
In 1993, Sun signed a five-year co-development agreement with me. My company, Elvis+, performed various tasks required by Sun. For example, cleaning the Solaris operating system. There were many projects on the market, and we also followed them. Security—VPN and Firewall—was a significant concern for Sun. It was essential to protect the Internet and implement it into business.
Since 1994, they have been actively involved in developing protocols. One of the protocols was SKIP (Simple Key Management for Internet Protocol). Then, IPsec replaced it, which has been promoted mainly by Cisco lately. But it all started with SKIP. Sun got customers because they did everything for Solaris. But at that time, financial institutions used Windows machines. I saw that they needed to catch up in this direction. Sun had a large Windows team of 90 people based in Boston, reporting to Eric Schmidt. The division dealt with the Windows system. At that time, they had different projects, for example, with Intuit. The goal was to introduce the Internet into the banking system. Intuit is more of an accounting and financial platform. So there were some solutions. And development continued.
In 1995, Sun made an announcement. They introduced Java and achievements in security. It was a big message. They gathered all the best security people. There was Whitfield Diffie, developers of the Satan program, and other hackers. But this all was about Solaris. Their Boston department could have performed better.
I was observing this story and have launched a project on Solaris and another on Windows. Projects for combining devices and developments have begun. When we came to the US – our devices worked, but others did not.
At that time, Sun had already started to work with Check Point. They signed a very profitable agreement for Check Point but not for Sun. The reason was straightforward. Check Point got the right to give its product to companies like HP. At the same time, Sun spent six months preparing the product for its quality control to produce a SUN product licensed by Check Point. It turned out that Sun's reputation gave Check Point a powerful boost.
Eventually, Sun started walking around me. They said we will not contract with you on the same terms. By this time, we had developed the first-ever VPN for computers running Windows operating systems. And Sun still didn't have such a product. They sent a whole group of agents to us to reveal the technology, but they failed.
Finally, one evening, Eric Schmidt called me and said they had decided to buy the rights to our products. Because Sun had to plug the holes. As a result, in 1997, Sun Microsystems acquired an OEM license from ELVIS+, and we signed an agreement in which we stipulated sales volumes and so on. Sun said it will sell Elvis+ Secure Virtual Private Network software for Windows 3.11, Windows '95, and Windows NT under SunScreen SKIP E+. (SunScreen SKIP-E+ is single-user software that can secure user transactions over public and local networks.)
This fact outraged the entire public. The problem was that, at that time, the length of a long key in banking was 128 bits. Only banks could get a license for such things. American-style cryptography could only go abroad with limited encryption. And so, according to the law, since our company was not American but Russian, Sun, having bought the rights from us, could, without importing the product to the States, immediately sell it somewhere. This outraged many people: HP, Microsoft, and others.
So, everyone started writing to officials and security services that Sun was deceiving everyone. The first problem was that Sun signed such a contract with the Russians, and the second problem was that it was signed abroad, and Sun beat everyone on the turn. Administration officials fear the software could fall into the wrong hands, allowing terrorists and other international groups to evade detection by authorities.
US authorities did not believe that a Russian company could develop such complex technology independently, independent of Sun, and initiated an investigation conducted by the NSA (National Security Agency). Export control officers showed up. I was called for the first interview. After that, I was summoned to Washington to see the chief export control prosecutor. I met with commissions there. I explained to them that they were doing something wrong. And we need to open up cryptography, which will allow us to promote the Internet and use this technology worldwide.
There was a period of investigation. We sent our software blocks to the NSA to verify no trace of Sun. Some people got scared that they were corresponding with me and destroyed their disks. That was a real detective story. The result was a big hit on Sun. They were threatened and significantly reduced the promotion of the product.
This led to me starting a new company myself. I brought Humphrey Polanen, general manager of Sun's network security products group, to serve as CEO of the new venture. This was the beginning of TrustWorks, which I founded in 1998 in the Netherlands.
All this story generated dozens and dozens of publications in top-tier media. I became the center of attention and lots of discussions. After that, I met with Bill Gates and other people who became interested in me. We present some of these articles from that period for your attention in this section.
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