April 28, 2014

The Internet Is Being Protected By Two Guys Named Steve

It was the last thing Steve Marquess and Stephen Henson wanted to hear. In 2006, three years into a struggle to get a key component of OpenSSL validated as secure by the U.S. government, and they’d received bad news: Their code needed more work. OpenSSL is the default encryption engine used by much of the internet and the government was adamant any program it gave approval to would be stringently tested. Marquess, a consultant for the Department of Defense, had given years of his life and his whole project’s budget to getting this approval — the government’s official money had run out six months after the project began in 2003.

“We kept getting requirements to make silly changes,” explains Marquess, now a 59-year-old biker who has traded government work for equally stressful 40-hour-or-more weeks in the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain near Adamstown, Md. “And we kept making them.”

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