Security, Tech Communities Rally to Support GnuPG

The last year has seen a big swing in the support from the technology community for open-source security tools, many of which are maintained by tiny staffs or volunteers. OpenSSL last year received a large chunk of funding from the Core Infrastructure Initiative, and now it’s GnuPG’s turn.

After a story on ProPublica Thursday publicized the plight of Werner Koch, the creator and lone full-time developer of the encryption software, who was running low on money to fund the project, members of the security and technology communities began a word-of-mouth campaign to raise money to help. These kinds of campaigns can fizzle out quickly, but not this time. In less than a day, the GnuPG project received more than €120,000 in donations from individuals around the world.

“As the main author of GnuPG, I like to thank everyone for supporting the project, be it small or large individual donations, helping users, providing corporate sponsorship, working on the software, and for all the encouraging words,” Koch wrote on the GnuPG site

GnuPG, also known as Gnu Privacy Guard, is a free, open source implementation of the OpenPGP specification. The encryption software is used widely and included in a variety of other software packages. Koch created the software more than 15 years ago and works on the project full time. He has been struggling to fund the project, but those worries are over, at least for the time being.

In addition to the  €120,000 in donations from individual supporters, the CII, which is supported by the Linux Foundation, has given GnuPG a $60,000 grant for this year. Also, both Facebook and Stripe, the payment processor GnuPG uses, have pledged $50,000 each to support the project.

“We think it’s important to have a diverse family of software that can stand the test of time, and this is a great opportunity to support such a project. GnuPG was started 17 years ago, and we hope it keeps improving for years to come,” Scott Renfro, a software engineer on Facebook’s security infrastructure team, wrote in a statement.

Meanwhile, Koch encouraged users to support not just GnuPG, but the myriad other free and open source projects that need funds.

“GnuPG does not stand alone: there are many other projects, often unknown to most people, which are essential to keep the free Internet running. Many of them are run by volunteers who spend a lot of unpaid time on them. They need our support as well,” he said.

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