Len Sassaman (31) has passed away

Belgian programmer, cryptographer, influential advocate of online privacy, PhD candidate at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, Sassaman struggled with depression and has stepped out of life.

Although his name among the general public does not ring a bell, Sassaman was a very respected person in the small, but international world of online privacy and security experts. He worked for Network Associates on the PGP encryption software, was a member of the Shmoo Group, a contributor to the OpenPGP IETF working group, the GNU Privacy Guard project, and frequently appeared at technology conferences like DEF CON. He gave lectures, linked his name with such international conferences as CodeCon (which he co-founded), CCS or SmooCon and was active as a researcher at the Computer Security and Industrial Cryptography Group of the KU Leuven.

Sassaman was the project manager for Mixmaster , a “remailer” that can sen e-mail anonymously or under a pseudonym. He also worked on various open source encryption projects, gave his name to the Zimmermann–Sassaman key-signing protocol, and at the age of 21, was an organizer of the protests following the arrest of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov.

Sassaman was married to Meredith L. Patterson , an American security expert, science fiction writer and journalist. She confirmed the bad news on Twitter and Hacker News .


1 comment
  1. https://www.facebook.com/notes.php?id=500467612
    I met Len in 1999, he was a kid. A cocky kid who thought he knew everything and I wasn’t impressed. I think we were arguing about K of N keysplitting. Rodney Thayer said “Yeah, he’s like we were at that age.” Rodney was gracious and patient, accepting and loving towards Len and I felt obliged to follow his lead. This is a highly improbable description of Rodney, but it was the truth. I became friends with Len and we were coconspirator cypherpunks at a time when that was a wild frontier. We were reimagining our world, riddled with cryptosystems that would mathematically enforce the freedoms that we treasured. Anonymous remailers to preserve speech without fear of retribution; onion routers to ensure nobody could censor the internet; digital cash to enable a radically free economy. We have schemes to decentralize & distribute everything. We imagine complex and esoteric threats to problems we might someday have – we architect futuristic protocols to insulate against those threats. All this is a highly academic geek utopia exercise. I tend to keep it that way, but Len wanted to get his hands dirty. There were times when Len got visits from various Federal agencies over remailer abuse. At first Len would get scared and I’d get him out of the house which he assumed was bugged, and drive around for a while. Especially in those early years, Len was trying to impress us. We invited him to join The Shmoo Group, where I’m a fringe radical, and Len became the lunatic fringe. I’m sure we helped temper his apocalyptic tendencies and at times he even bordered on diplomatic. But it isn’t in our nature to acknowledge prowess directly. You only know a hacker respects you if he’s willing to waste his time shooting holes in your ideas. I have thousands of messages to and from Len spanning the last decade, and I doubt a single one of them offers any direct praise.
    Len got his hands dirty. He committed himself to building the stuff we imagined. I play it safe and remain blameless, but I get to stay balanced because courageous guys like Len fulfill the extremes.
    Len, you are, in fact, an inspiration to those of us who inspired you. You made something great of your life. You left a lot behind for us. Thanks for letting me be a part of it all.
    Cypherpunks write code.

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