Zulfikar Ramzan

About this episode

Discussing cryptography is usually a surefire way to end a dinner conversation. It combines two things that intimidate (and bore) many people: hard tech and complex math. In spite of this, cryptography is on center stage today as it is the very foundation of defending our privacy and perhaps unlocking how we can safely share health information in the midst of the pandemic. There are few people who both understand and can explain cryptography in plain English better than Dr. Zulfikar Ramzan, CTO of RSA.

Our hour long conversation with Zully tackles how concepts such as zero knowledge proofs and multiparty computation might be applied during the current COVID-19 pandemic.  Historically, sharing healthcare information has been an “all or nothing” affair with difficult privacy trade-offs being made in  the name of ensuring we receive the right care at the right time.  Zully takes us through how longstanding encryption concepts, now made practical by advances in computing, may allow us to selectively share vital health information such as vaccination records or test results without sacrificing our personal privacy.

Zully also explains how cryptographers are preparing for a world where quantum computers can make short work of our current encryption practices. He draws perspective from the mid-90s when the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) was being developed and explains the road ahead for promising lattice-based methods that could form the basis of a new, post-quantum AES replacement.

Beyond cryptography, we discuss Zully’s role as CTO at one of the most iconic brands in security. He takes us through “a day in the life” and explains his responsibilities beyond being the company’s spokesperson. Perhaps more importantly, Zully explains how he balances all of this with his family where making crispy cauliflower takes priority over factoring prime numbers.

Meet our guest

Zulfikar Ramzan

Chief Technology Officer, RSA

About Zully

As CTO, Zulfikar Ramzan leads the development of RSA’s technology strategy and focuses on bringing to market the innovations that protect RSA customers from the growing number of advanced threats.

Prior to RSA, Ramzan served as CTO of Elastica (acquired by Blue Coat), where he leveraged machine learning and natural language processing to enable customers to more securely use cloud services.

Before Elastica, he served as Chief Scientist of Sourcefire (acquired by Cisco) and malware analytics company Immunet (acquired by Sourcefire). Ramzan was previously Technical Director of Symantec’s Security Technology and Response division and architect for the company’s reputation-based malware detection technology.

Ramzan holds over 50 patents and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and computer science from MIT.