skip to main content

2,621 shops listed | Last updated: 21 May 2022

Monitor Add a site

UK security experts recognised for work on safe shopping online

06 October 2010 - 15:29 by Simon Crisp

Share on

A trio of former UK intelligence officers have been given recognition for the work which they carried out 40 years ago, which eventually led to the creation of secure transactions and safe online shopping.

The men worked for the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in the 1970s and originally developed the necessary mathematical theory that would later be implemented by e-commerce firms around the world, although it was originally created for military purposes.

Malcolm Williamson, Clifford Cocks and James Ellis were all given the Milestone Award by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), as part of centenary celebrations of the accolade. The GCHQ has said that it will be installing plaques which will pay homage to the men at its Cheltenham location.

Mr Cocks said that the ability to encrypt transactions to make them secure and simple enough for public use had become more universally harnessed than they had imagined it might at the time of it inception.

Mr Williamson will not be attending any events in person as he now lives in the US and Mr Ellis sadly passed away 13 years ago. Mr Cocks is the only remaining member of this landmark mathematical team to experience this recognition.

It was in 1997 that the three men were officially allowed to take credit for this work, as their ideas had been kept under wraps and the information relating to their identities remained classified. Originally a US team had been thought to have developed the techniques which keep shopping online payments secure, but now the GCHQ is finally able to hand out much-deserved praise.

Interestingly, the work on these ideas that would later be applied to secure safe online shopping, was taking place two decades before the internet was invented.