Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Remembering Steve Tuecke’s contributions to cybersecurity

I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Steve Tuecke last weekend. Steve was a passionate leader in the application of technology to advance science as well as being a great mentor to me during the three years I worked as part of the Globus project and since. While Steve’s contributions to scientific computing and data management are wide-ranging, I worked most closely with him on the topics of cybersecurity and identity management. This post is to remember and reflect on his work in those areas that was foundational to much of cybersecurity in scientific computing today.

When I first met Steve in the late 1990s, he was a driving force behind establishing a flexible security architecture to support distributed science. His ability to grasp the needs for delegating authority and secure communications amongst researchers and infrastructure (fairly novel concepts in those days where the world wide web was just getting started) and his acumen in systems design and software engineering immediately attracted me to him as someone from whom I was eager to learn.

The first project Steve drew me into was solving the challenge of how a researcher delegated credentials to web servers, an unknown concept in the simple client-server model of the web at that time. This original work became MyProxy, a workhorse for credential management in scientific computing to this day, and which led to the important CILogon infrastructure.

I joined the Globus project shortly after and under Steve’s mentorship started working on standardizing Proxy Certificates and developing their implementation in the very nascent Grid Security Infrastructure (GSI). During this period, Steve taught me much about software development and architecture (I will always associate the term “idempotent” with Steve), the role of standards, building  communities, and leadership.

Since my days with Globus, I continued to admire Steve’s leadership in developing Globus Auth, allowing researchers to manage their multiple identities at different sites and services. I enjoyed numerous conversations with Steve on that identity work as well as other topics such as software sustainability. He was a great mentor and friend and will be missed.

Von Welch, Trusted CI Director