Cryptography & Public Key Encryption
What's the Big Deal?

Submitted for Bsc (Hons) in Business Informatics

1.0 Abstract

Cryptography, also known as code-making, is as old as humanity and has been in the service of armed forces, diplomatic circles and anyone who values secrecy on any scale. (Source: FIRST Conference notes, 1998)

Cryptography is the art or science of keeping messages secret.

Against this backdrop, encryption can be defined as a generic term covering all techniques to encipher or encode a transmission of information. Replacing the letters in a message with a corresponding number or by the next letter in the alphabet is a form of encryption. (Source: Zielinski 1998[1])

As the economies of the nations of the world become increasingly information based there is a growing recognition of the importance of commercial cryptographic products in protecting both information and information processing assets.

Many companies now operate internationally in highly competitive markets and their advantage over their competitors increasingly depends on the effectiveness with which they co-ordinate and plan their actions and avoid knowledge of their intentions being seen by their competitors.

The introduction of digitally based technologies as well as the widespread use of computers and computer networks which may incorporate privacy features/capabilities through the use of encryption are facilitating the development, production, and use of affordable and robust commercially-available encryption products and services for use by the general public. These encryption systems provide robust security for conventional and cellular telephone conversations, facsimile transmissions, local and wide area networks, communications transmitted over the Internet (E-mail, etc.), personal computers, wireless communications systems, electronically stored information, remote keyless entry systems, advanced messaging systems, and radio frequency communications systems.

Encryption is extremely beneficial when used legitimately to protect commercially sensitive information and communications. The law enforcement community, both domestically and abroad, is extremely concerned about the serious threat posed by the proliferation and use of robust encryption products that do not allow for the immediate, lawful access to the plaintext of encrypted, criminally-related communications and electronically stored data in accordance with strict legal requirements and procedures. The potential use of such commercially available encryption products by a vast array of criminals and terrorists to conceal their criminal communications and information poses an extremely serious threat to public safety and national security. (Source: Zielinski 1998 [2])

Information Security is more important now than ever before. Date is more highly prized and should be closely guarded. The world runs on information and as such it is imperative that this data should be well guarded against unauthorised manipulation. Cryptography should allow a person or group to achieve this, however it is not this simple, as we must also examine the implications of allowing access to cryptography to everyone.

And that includes criminals such as paedophiles and terrorists.

2.0 Introduction and Background

The world is changing. Computers are changing. We are having to feel our way around the entity called ‘cyberspace’ and we try and deal with the social consequences of our actions as best we can. Nothing in the fast paced technological world we live in today is clear-cut black or white…

One item that is currently a so-called ‘hot topic’ at the moment is encryption. This is currently being debated on the UK Crypto mailing list (ukcrypto@maillist.ox.ac.uk) in some detail. In summary, there are two schools of thought on the policy of encryption in this country. Firstly we have the party which does not want encryption regulations imposed by the government in any way shape or form, the so-called ‘Civil Libertarians’ and certain organisations. On the other hand we have the apparent draconian policies of the Labour government, who wish to regulate the transfer of encryption programs and algorithms. Also included in the regulatory stance are the US government and various other organisations.

Why try and regulate cryptography? At first glance it would appear that any item that can aid an individual to keep their private life private would be welcomed. However when considering the scope of the question, one must also analyse the criminal element and even on occasion the terrorist element who could twist technology to their advantage to conceal their actions or plans.

2.1 Introduction to Encryption

People mean different things when they talk about cryptography. Children play with toy ciphers and secret languages. However, these have nothing to do with real security and strong encryption. Strong encryption is the kind of encryption that can be used to protect information of real value against organised criminals, multinational corporations, and major governments. Strong encryption used to be only military business; however, in the information society it has become one of the central tools for maintaining privacy and confidentiality. (Source: Scheiner 1996)

Governments have always been very concerned with the secrecy of information related to military, economic and foreign policy issues. For many years, military and government missions drove the development and use of applications for encryption. Although encryption software and hardware devices have been commercially available for years, their cost, degradation of voice quality, and user "friendliness" have, in the past made these devices unattractive to the general public.

Whereas cryptography used to be a military item, one that the common citizen could never have any access to, it now is available from a variety of sources. There are many reasons why this has become so; primarily these are the dramatic growth of the Internet and also the almost impossible growth in the power of home computing. Individuals now have access to immense power with regards to communications and resources. Although many do not choose to exercise this power, within this dissertation I will discuss why some should, and also argue the governments view that individuals should not have access to these resources. Finally an overview of the current legislation, both in practice and pending is given, along with an examination of trusted third parties (TTP's).

2.2 The History of Encryption

"Encryption" is as old as humanity. From communications in Ancient Egypt to modern-day digital techniques, human beings have always tried to find ways to ensure that "unintended recipients" could not understand their communications. Military communications are a clear example of the need for such technology. Many applications are not related to military uses, however: businesses that need confidentiality (negotiation of a business agreement, protection of trade secrets) or want to restrict access to material (pay television); or consumers and citizens who want to protect their privacy. (Source: Zielinski 1998 [2])

The word cryptography comes from Greek word kryptos which means ‘hidden’ while graphia stands for ‘writing’. Cryptography concerns ways in which the meaning of messages may be concealed so that only certain people can understand them, and methods of ensuring that the content of messages remains unaltered. (Schneier, 1996)

The earliest reported implementation was by Julius Caesar in Roman times. The Caesar Cipher is one of the simplest monoalphabetic substitutions one may use, and it's also one of the easiest to break. It is said that Julius Caesar wrote to his friends using a simple substitution cipher, where the plaintext letter was replaced by the ciphertext three places down the alphabet, so that the letter M is replaced by P and so on. There were many different implementations of variations on these theme, using obscure algorithms, etc, but real cryptography was not developed until later. (Source: Kahn 1998)

The Enigma project used by the Germans in the 2nd World War is one example of cryptography that most people think of. The 2nd World War was an amazing turning point, as it forced countries, to develop what are generally agreed to be the first real computers mainly to break codes. (Source: Kahn 1998)

Ordinary people did not have access to computers, because they were few in number and too expensive. Some people postulated that there would never be a need for more than half a dozen computers in the country, and assumed that ordinary people would never have a need for computers. Some of the government attitudes toward cryptography today were formed in that period, and mirrors the old attitudes toward computers. Why would ordinary people need to have access to good cryptography?

In addition to the limited availability of computers, another problem with cryptography in those days was that cryptographic keys had to be distributed over secure channels so that both parties could send encrypted traffic over insecure channels. Governments solved that problem by dispatching key couriers with satchels handcuffed to their wrists. Governments could afford to send people like these to their embassies overseas. But the great masses of ordinary people would never have access to practical cryptography if keys had to be distributed this way. No matter how cheap and powerful personal computers might someday become, you cannot send the keys electronically without the risk of interception. This widened the feasibility gap between government and personal access to cryptography.

Today, we live in a new world that has had two major breakthroughs that have an impact on this state of affairs. The first is the coming of the personal computer and the information age. The second breakthrough is public-key cryptography. This allows people to communicate securely and conveniently with people they've never met, with no prior exchange of keys over secure channels. No more special key couriers with black bags. This, coupled with the trappings of the information age, means the great masses of people can at last use cryptography. This new technology also provides digital signatures to authenticate transactions and messages, and allows for digital money, with all the implications that has for an electronic digital economy.

Public-key cryptography (PKC) has been the subject of much discussion in the open literature since Diffie and Hellman suggested the possibility in their paper of April 1976. It has captured public imagination, and has been analysed and developed for practical use. Over the past decade there has been considerable academic activity in this field with many different schemes being proposed, and sometimes, analysed. (Source: CESG report 1999)

Security of information and communications systems involves the protection of the availability, confidentiality and integrity of those systems and the data that is transmitted and stored on them. Availability is the property that data, information, and information and communications systems are accessible and useable on a timely basis in the required manner. Confidentiality is the property that data or information is not made available or disclosed to unauthorised persons, entities and processes. Integrity is the property that data or information has not been modified or altered in an unauthorised manner. The relative priority and significance of availability, confidentiality and integrity vary according to the information or communication systems and the ways in which those systems are used. The quality of security for information and communication systems and the data that is stored and transmitted on them depends not only on the technical measures, including the use of both hardware and software tools, but also on good managerial, organisational and operational procedures.

The diverse interests which can be affected by the use of, or the failure to use, cryptography make the development of balanced cryptography policy both complex and critical. Traditionally, cryptography was most often used only by governments.

However in recent years, as cryptography has become more accessible and affordable, and as users have become more aware of the benefits of using it and the risks of failing to do so, cryptography has also come to be used as a matter of course by individuals and businesses for a variety of purposes. The increasing availability of cryptography to the general public has fuelled the current debate on these issues.

3.0 An Overview of Encryption and Cryptography.

Suppose that someone wants to send a message to a receiver, and wants to be sure that no one else can read the message. There is the possibility that someone else opens the letter or hears the communication. In cryptographic terminology, the message is called plaintext or cleartext. Encoding the contents of the message in such a way that hides its contents from outsiders is called encryption. The encrypted message is called the Ciphertext. The process of retrieving the plaintext from the ciphertext is called decryption. Encryption and decryption usually make use of a key, and the coding method is such that only knowing the proper key can perform decryption.

Cryptography deals with all aspects of secure messaging, authentication, digital signatures, electronic money, and other applications. Cryptology is the branch of mathematics that studies the mathematical foundations of cryptographic methods.

A method of encryption and decryption is called a cipher. Some cryptographic methods rely on the secrecy of the algorithms; such algorithms are only of historical interest and are not adequate for today’s real-world needs. All modern algorithms use a key to control encryption and decryption; a message can be decrypted only if the private key matches the encryption key. The private key used for decryption can be different from the encryption key, but for most algorithms they are the same.

There are two classes of key-based algorithms, symmetric (or secret-key) and asymmetric (or public-key) algorithms. The difference is that symmetric algorithms use the same key for encryption and decryption (or the decryption key is easily derived from the encryption key), whereas asymmetric algorithms use a different key for encryption and decryption, and the decryption key cannot be derived from the encryption key. (Source: RSA Laboratory’s FAQ 1995)

Symmetric algorithms can be divided into stream ciphers and block ciphers. Stream ciphers can encrypt a single bit of plaintext at a time, whereas block ciphers take a number of bits (typically 64 bits in modern ciphers), and encrypt them as a single unit.

Asymmetric ciphers (also called public-key algorithms or generally public-key cryptography) permit the encryption key to be public (it can even be published in a newspaper), allowing anyone to encrypt with the key, whereas only the proper recipient (who knows the decryption key) can decrypt the message. The encryption key is also called the public key and the decryption key the private key or secret key.

Modern cryptographic algorithms cannot really be executed by humans. Strong cryptographic algorithms are designed to be executed by computers or specialised hardware devices. In most applications, cryptography is done in computer software.

Generally, symmetric algorithms are much faster to execute on a computer than asymmetric ones. In practice they are often used together, so that a public-key algorithm is used to encrypt a randomly generated encryption key, and the random key is used to encrypt the actual message using a symmetric algorithm. (Source: RSA Labs FAQ 1995)

Many good cryptographic algorithms are widely and publicly available in any major bookstore, scientific library, or patent office, on the Internet. Well-known symmetric functions include DES and IDEA. RSA is probably the best known asymmetric algorithm. (Source: RSA Labs FAQ 1995)

In 1992 Phil Zimmerman, a US computer security consultant, created a complete implementation of RSA public key cryptography which could run on most computers, using a strong session key cipher. It allowed users to generate their own public and private keys, maintain a "key-ring" of signed certificates in a web-of-trust, and certify the keys of other users. Any Internet user could now send and receive electronic mail that could not be decrypted (as far as anyone knows) by the most skilled cryptoanalysts using the most powerful computers. It was called ‘Pretty Good Privacy’ (‘PGP’). (Source: www.nai.com/philz/ 1999)

Some public-key algorithms can be used to generate digital signatures. A digital signature is a block of data that was created using some secret key, and there is a public key that can be used to verify that the signature was really generated using the corresponding private key. The algorithm used to generate the signature must be such that without knowing the secret key it is not possible to create a signature that would verify as valid.

Digital signatures are used to verify that a message really comes from the claimed sender (assuming only the sender knows the secret key corresponding to his/her public key). They can also be used to timestamp documents: a trusted party signs the document and its timestamp with his/her secret key, thus testifying that the document existed at the stated time.

Digital signatures can also be used to testify (or certify) that a public key belongs to a particular person. This is done by signing the combination of the key and the information about its owner by a trusted key. The reason for trusting that key may again be that it was signed by another trusted key. Eventually some key must be a root of the trust hierarchy. In a centralised key infrastructure there are very few roots in the trust network (e.g., trusted government agencies; such roots are also called certification authorities). In a distributed infrastructure there need not be any universally accepted roots, and each party may have different trusted roots (such of the party's own key and any keys signed by it). This is the web-of-trust concept used in PGP.

A digital signature of an arbitrary document is typically created by computing a message digest (the result of applying a hash function to a message) from the document, and concatenating it with information about the signer, a timestamp, etc. The resulting string is then encrypted using the private key of the signer using a suitable algorithm. The resulting encrypted block of bits is the signature. It is often distributed together with information about the public key that was used to sign it. To verify a signature, the recipient first determines whether it trusts that the key belongs to the person it is supposed to belong to (using the web of trust or a prior knowledge), and then decrypts the signature using the public key of the person. If the signature decrypts properly and the information matches that of the message (proper message digest etc.), the signature is accepted as valid.

Now that we have examined the background to cryptography, we must examine why there is an issue at all to deal with. Cryptography is a "…a surprisingly political technology." (Source: www.nai.com/philz 1999). We will now examine current legislation.

4.0 Government Control.

Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights both state that:
"No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."

The legislative process used to be relatively simple. Either a law was adopted or not. It also used to be the case that a good law was an enforceable law. Black or white. In the case of encryption, we have to deal with many shades of grey. (Source: Zielinski 1998 [1])

To help us understand the policy questions, and find the "truth", which, as usual, probably tends to hide somewhere in the centre of the debate, we must look at opposing views, whenever possible using the advocates’ own words.

As regards the control of encryption for confidentiality, export controls and key recovery/escrow regulations have been used or are being proposed. To summarize, one group believes that law enforcement agencies should have access to encrypted messages. They term their approach "balanced" because it takes into account on the one hand, the needs of businesses and citizens and, on the other, law enforcement agencies and government. The other group believes that businesses and citizens should have the right to encrypt their information using the technology of their choice.

Phil Zimmerman's motive for creating PGP was political and not for profit. Zimmerman believes that the intrinsic susceptibility of digital communications to automated mass-surveillance is an unprecedented threat to civil liberties and wishes to provide the public with a secure means of communication. The program has been used by human rights monitors inside countries with repressive political regimes, but also by criminals to conceal evidence.

The disclosure or transfer of cryptographic software to a foreigner is illegal under the US ITAR (International Trade in Arms Regulations) export regulations. Zimmerman did not personally exported PGP. He created it, encouraged its use and distributed it to friends and colleagues, one of whom posted it to an Internet Usenet discussion group. Other programmers around the world collaboratively produced later, improved and extended versions. (Source: www.nai.com/philz 1999)

Zimmerman was put under investigation in the USA, with a grand jury hearing evidence for about 28 months. A campaign was established for his defence, and the civil liberties issues achieved wide publicity on the Internet. After acquiring folk-hero status, the prosecution was finally dropped by the US Federal Government in January 1996 without explanation. These disputes are now moot, and PGP has become an international de facto standard for Internet public key cryptography. In 1997, the source program of the latest version was published in the form of a book, constitutionally protected under the First Amendment. The book was then scanned outside the US, and the program re-compiled, which allowed distribution of a free version on the Internet, and a shrink-wrap version for commercial use. (Source: www.nai.com/philz 1999)

4.1 European Views

"The European Parliament is advised to set up appropriate independent audit and oversight procedures and that any effort to outlaw encryption by EU citizens should be denied until and unless such democratic and accountable systems are in place, if at all." (Source: EU STOA Report, 9/98)

It should be noted that in a number of official reports, the European Commission, while considering encryption as "the essential tool for security and trust in electronic communications", rejects key escrow encryption, and diverges from the US position in endorsing the view that "privacy considerations suggest not to limit the use of cryptography as a means to ensure data security and confidentiality." In this respect, thus, the EC takes the libertarian view. (Source : Zielinski 1998 [2])

Cryptography is a surprisingly political technology. In recent years, it has become more so, with the controversy surrounding the Government's Clipper chip, the FBI wiretap legislation, export controls on cryptographic software, and the balance of power between a government and its people. Historically, mainly governments for diplomatic and military traffic have used cryptography. But with the coming of the information age, ubiquitous personal computers, modems, and fax machines, this is changing. With an emerging global economy depending more and more on digital communication, ordinary people and companies need cryptography to protect their everyday communications. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies want access to all of our communications, to catch people who break the law, and detect threats to National Security. Civil libertarians want to keep the Government out of our private communications, to protect our privacy and maintain a healthy democracy. (Source: Zimmerman 1998)

"As we prepare to enter a new century, our society stands on the threshold of a revolution as profound as that brought about by the invention of the printing press half a millennium ago." (Source: Labour Party Statement 1996)

The revolution is the creation of a global infrastructure that can transmit voice, video and text in a single inter-operable medium. Confidential messages may be sent without prior arrangement between parties, and public directories used to authenticate authorship with digital signatures that cannot be forged.

Digitised intellectual property can be marked by electronic copyright management systems to identify owners or consumers. The ubiquitous new medium could in time become the primary means of mass communication, subsuming the marketing of and payment for general goods and services. (Source: Labour Party Statement, 1996)

The Director of the FBI has said:
"…the encryption issue is one of the most important issues confronting law enforcement and potentially has catastrophic implications for our ability to combat every threat to national security Law enforcement remains in unanimous agreement that the widespread use of robust non-recovery encryption will ultimately devastate our ability to fight crime and terrorism"

Statement to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; 28 January 1998

Since 1994, a committee of permanent officials has formulated UK encryption policy, providing unified advice to Ministers. Since 1995, the consistent aim of both the UK and US policy has been to introduce systems for ubiquitous key recovery, intended to maintain covert access to electronic communications. The policy has never been debated by Parliament, or scrutinised by any Select Committee. After unsuccessful attempts by representatives of GCHQ to persuade the OECD to adopt Royal Holloway TTPs as an international standard, the Department of Trade and Industry was assigned the lead role, and announced in June 1996 its intention to regulate the provision of encryption services to the public, stating that:
"It is not the intention of the Government to regulate the private use of encryption. It will, however, ensure that organisations and bodies wishing to provide encryption services to the public will be appropriately licensed." (Source: Labour Party Statement)

The opposite side of the coin relates to potential uses by the State to restrict private citizens access to information about themselves. In a few countries, Freedom of Information acts legislate the access of citizens to information about themselves, and about the workings of the State. However, most countries in the world do not have such provisions, and it is in the hands of these governments that powerful encryption can be and is being used as a means to hide information that the State is squeamish about exposing to the public eye. (Source: Zielinski 1998)

Without going into the pros and cons of such behaviour on the part of the State, one can concede that there are ethical aspects to the existence and deployment of encryption for the purposes of ensuring State secrecy.

4.2 Labour Party Policy

Communicating Britain's Future set out the pre-election policy of the Labour Party on encryption:

" Attempts to control the use of encryption technology are wrong in principle, unworkable in practice, and damaging to the long-term economic value of the information networks. There is no fundamental difference between an encrypted file and a locked safe. A safe may be effectively impregnable in that the effort taken to open it would destroy the contents. An encryption algorithm, similarly, may be effectively unbreakable.

Furthermore, the rate of change of technology and the ease with which ideas or computer software can be disseminated over the Internet and other networks make technical solutions unworkable. Adequate controls can be put in place based around current laws covering search and seizure and the disclosure of information. It is not necessary to criminalise a large section of the network-using public to control the activities of a very small minority of law-breakers.

In all other areas, privacy must be rigorously protected, particularly in the light of the potential for secondary, micro-marketing on the new networks. The Data Protection Act already applies to personal information held in relation to computerised services and providers should be aware of their responsibilities under the Act. We would wish to consult with the Registrar to ensure that the provisions of the Act provide adequate protection for new digital services.

As long as sources were only traced when specific legal permission for defined reasons had been given, and this process were openly monitored, we believe the arrangements set out above would provide the most appropriate balance between freedom of speech and freedom from harm."

"We do not accept the Clipper chip argument developed in the United States for the authorities to be able to swoop down on any encrypted message at will and unscramble it. The only power we would wish to give to the authorities, in order to pursue a defined legitimate anti-criminal purpose, would be to enable decryption to be demanded under judicial warrant."

If this amounts to a generic rejection of escrow, it appears that Labour Party intended solely to penalise a refusal to comply with a demand to decrypt under judicial warrant.

The Labour Party further argued that "attempts to control the use of encryption technology were wrong in principle, unworkable in practice, and damaging to the long-term economic value of the information networks. It is not necessary to criminalise a large section of the network-using public to control the activities of a very small minority of law-breakers." (Source: Labour Party Statement, 1996.)

4.3 Other Organisations

The European Commission and other legislative bodies have been studying encryption and digital signatures for many months. At their Bonn meeting from 6 to 8 July 1997, Ministers recognised the need for strong encryption for electronic commerce and favoured international availability of interoperable cryptography products. Ministers also called for the creation of a legal and technical framework that would allow compatibility among digital signature standards and allow users to rely on those signatures. Ministers further agreed to "remove barriers to the use of digital signature in law, business and public administration, and to provide legal and mutual recognition of certificates." (Source: Zielinski 1998)

4.3.1 OECD

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) was the first international intergovernmental organisation to tackle the problem of encryption. The OECD is not new to this field. In 1980 it proposed guidelines on the protection of privacy and transborder flows of personal data. In 1985, it issued a declaration on transborder data flows and finally in 1992, OECD adopted guidelines for the security of information systems. More recently, on 1 November 1997, the OECD released a complete report on the policy, trade and some of the legal implications of electronic commerce, as a background document for the international conference and business-government forum on "Dismantling the Barriers to Global Electronic Commerce" organised by the OECD and the Government of Finland and held in Turku from 19-21 November 1997. (Source: OECD 1997)

In summary, the principles are as follows:
Encryption methods should be reliable, to generate trust;
Users should have a choice of encryption methods, to find the one that meets their needs;
Encryption methods should be market-driven and respond to the needs of individuals, businesses and governments;
Standards should be developed at the national and international level;
Interoperability should be achieved through standardisation efforts;
Privacy and personal data should be protected, including as regards payments;
Governments considering methods that would provide access for law enforcement agencies should carefully weigh the benefits and assess the risks of misuse; such access should be granted within designated time-limits;
The liability of individuals and entities that offer encryption services or hold keys should be clearly stated, by law or contract;
Governments should co-operate to avoid creating obstacles to legitimate trade.

The OECD Guidelines contained several principles that are examined below.

"National cryptographic policies may allow lawful access to plaintext, or cryptographic keys, of encrypted data."

"Where access to the plaintext, or cryptographic keys, of encrypted data is requested under lawful process, the individual or entity requesting access must have a legal right to the possession of the plaintext, and once obtained the data must only be used for lawful purposes."

The OECD, while not taking sides on the benefits or drawbacks of key escrow, issued cryptography recommendations that warn against "unjustified obstacles to international trade and the development of information and communications networks (8th principle)" and "legislation which limits user choice. (2nd principle)."

The 5th principle stated that: "The fundamental rights of individuals to privacy, including secrecy of communications and protection of personal data, should be respected in national cryptography policies and in the implementation and use of cryptographic methods."

The 6th principle refrained from recommending government access to keys, allowing only that "national cryptography policies may allow access to cryptographic keys or encrypted data". The 6th OECD principle concludes that "these policies must respect the other principles contained in the guidelines to the greatest extent possible."

Many OECD Member countries undertook the development of policy and laws relating to cryptography in the mid 1990s. National policies began to be developed in isolation from one another, however, it was recognised early on that disparities in laws could create obstacles to the development of national and global information and communications networks. When the OECD was called upon to examine cryptography policy in 1995, several OECD Member countries already had laws that addressed some aspects of cryptography policy (specifically digital signature and export regulations). Many other countries had legislative initiatives pending or were studying the problems with a view to preparing law. These national efforts and a discussion of national experiences were brought to the drafting table at the OECD to help clarify the problems and the implications of cryptography policy, and they provided a solid basis for international co-operation in this area.

4.4 The Wassener Agreement

The Wassener Agreement is an international agreement between 33 participating nations. A brief overview of it is given in appendix A, which can be summarised here to be an arrangement to control the use of military strength of encryption to control who can use it, with regards to civilian uses. The major aim of the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) is "to prevent the build up of military capabilities that threaten regional and international security and stability.'

The Wassener agreement raises quite a few interesting questions. When one attempts to consider military uses of objects, it is difficult to distinguish what is offensive and what is defensive. Some types of weapon – for example, medium and long-range missile systems – are clearly offensive in character; others – for example tanks – can be used in either role and still others – for example, fixed anti-aircraft batteries – have a purely defensive role. In practice the major difference between offence and defence is determined more by intent and the nature of actions taken than it is by the weapons used. (Source: Gladman 1998)

Although cryptography is an entirely defensive technology, even offensive weapons have some defensive characteristics that give rise to cryptographic uses. To provide concrete examples, offensive medium and long-range missile systems require guidance and control telemetry and it is normal to protect these circuits using cryptographic products. Without such protection these missiles would be vulnerable to actions that interfere with missile guidance and control commands and hence render them ineffective. Even a completely defensive technology can thus have indirect uses in the operation of offensive weapons. (Source: Gladman 1998)

However, the products designed for such applications have almost nothing in common with their commercial counterparts since they have to be designed to meet stringent military performance requirements. In consequence they invariably employ custom designs in products whose characteristics and costs make commercial and civil use inconceivable. Since these products can be easily distinguished from their commercial counterparts there will be no difficulty in setting out criteria that will allow them to be controlled without imposing any restrictions on products designed for civil use. (Source: Gladman 1998)

Governments use cryptography to protect information that is sometimes highly valuable to other neighbouring nations, for example, in determining whether they are planning or considering offensive military action. If a belligerent nation is threatening regional stability it will have to take a number of actions that will often be reflected in its information exchanges, both within its borders and with overseas countries and organisations that are sympathetic to its cause. In this respect governments use cryptography to protect such information exchanges in order to hide their intentions. Again therefore, even though cryptography is a purely defensive technology, it can be exploited by a belligerent nation to the possible disadvantage of its peaceful neighbours. (Source: Gladman 1998)

When considering regional weapons accumulations, the implementation of the Wassenaar Arrangement must take account of the different character of military products because those that can only be used for defence will often make a major contribution to regional stability. Purely defensive weapons make belligerent military action by neighbouring nations less likely to occur and less likely to succeed if they are initiated. It is important, therefore, that the nations involved in Wassenaar promote truly defensive capabilities whilst working to prevent accumulations of offensive weapons and seeking to control and monitor those that can be used for either offensive or defensive purposes. (Source: Gladman 1998)

The Wassenaar Arrangement cannot legitimately be used to obstruct genuine civil transactions. This is very important because it means that products that are clearly designed and sold for civil – that is, non-military – use should not be restricted by controls justified under the terms of the Wassenaar Arrangement. This part of the arrangement is significant because many dual use goods can be used to construct either commercial or military capabilities and it is practically impossible for the vendor to know to which purpose they will be put. This is especially true for basic components, for example, nuts and bolts or electronic components sold as general-purpose commodity products. Many dual use goods are of this character and, in contrast with complete military products or systems, their suppliers cannot reasonably be expected to know the purpose to which a purchaser will put them. This means that commodity products and those that are widely available cannot sensibly be controlled.

In order to avoid damaging genuine civil transactions Wassenaar export controls seek to identify particular characteristics of ‘dual use’ goods that make it possible or likely that they will be used in the construction of offensive military capabilities. For example, very high strength metal alloys are controlled and so are electronic components that work at both very low and very high temperatures. Of course such components are also used in civil applications, for example, civil aircraft construction, but these are relatively specialised requirements and controls can be imposed without a serious impact on such civil commerce. (Source: Gladman 1998)

Commodity cryptographic products are outside the scope of Wassenaar controls since their control could not be achieved without undermining the extensive commercial market that is now involved. However, although there is a general exemption for commodity cryptographic software, the position of cryptographic hardware is less clear.

In any event the United States and a number of other countries still impose export controls on cryptographic products even where there is not even the remotest prospect that they will contribute to the development of offensive military capabilities. In practice these controls, which some nations seek to justify using the Wassenaar Arrangement, have a truly disastrous impact on genuine civil and commercial activities and hence contravene a key provision of the Wassenaar Arrangement. It appears, therefore, that this arrangement is being used by some nations to sustain controls on cryptography that are in no way justified by its aims. (Source: Gladman 1998)

There are a number of reasons why export controls on cryptography cannot be justified under the Wassenaar Arrangement.

Firstly, and most importantly, even if cryptography is assessed as important in military terms, it is a purely defensive technology with no offensive uses. Cryptographic products are entirely passive products whose only purpose is to defend and protect information assets from an aggressor who, for their own reasons, is seeking to gain access to them. Given its passive and entirely defensive nature, it is thus hard to see any case for the control of cryptographic products under the Wassenaar Arrangement – they simply are not capable of being used offensively in any direct way (some indirect uses will be discussed later). (Source: Gladman 1998)

Secondly, export controls on cryptographic products are now having a significant detrimental impact on genuine civil transactions and applications. The protection of national information assets, the development of secure electronic commerce and the protection of the privacy of citizens all now depend on civil cryptographic products that are subject to existing export controls.

In practice, most nations participating in the Wassenaar Arrangement recognise this difficulty and now avoid the imposition of any controls that impact on the civil market for cryptographic products. It is only the United States and a few other nations that continue to interpret the Wassenaar Arrangement in a way that impacts on civil use. (Source: Gladman 1998)

Clearly most criminal activity does not have any impact on regional or national stability and security and is not, therefore, within the scope of the Wassenaar Arrangement. However some major criminal activities and terrorist actions can pose threats to security and stability that could justify action under the terms of the Wassenaar Arrangement.

The question then becomes one of whether export controls can be effective in preventing the use of cryptography by major criminal and terrorist organisations. In practice it seems very unlikely that export controls can have any significant impact on the ability of such organisations to obtain or use cryptographic products. Products offering cryptographic information protection, especially software products, are widely available and very easy to obtain; within the space of 30 minutes on the Internet any competent criminal or terrorist can easily obtain cryptographic software which is more than adequate for the sorts of use they are likely to pursue. (Source: Gladman 1998)

In practice current cryptography export controls are an unfortunate and inappropriate ‘hangover’ from the earlier 'cold war' controls on which the Wassenaar Arrangement has been initially based.

"Much work remains to be done. In particular, I believe we must soon address the risks posed by electronic distribution of encryption software. Although the Wassenaar Nations have now reached agreement to control the distribution of mass market encryption software of certain cryptographic strength, some Wassenaar Nations continue not to control encryption software that is distributed over the Internet, either because the software is in the "public domain" or because those Nations do not control distribution of intangible items. While I recognise that this issue is controversial, unless we address this situation, use of the Internet to distribute encryption products will render Wassenaar's controls immaterial."
-- US Attorney General Janet Reno, On Wassenaar Crypto Controls, May, 1999
Given the earlier analysis there is no sound basis within the Wassenaar Agreement for the continuation of any export controls on civil cryptographic products. For reasons already covered these are not going to be used in offensive military or weapons programmes or by aggressor nations to protect their critical communications or information assets. (Source: Gladman 1998)

Because cryptography is an entirely passive technology whose characteristics are of a completely defensive nature there is a clear rationale for the total removal of all controls on cryptographic products, including even those of a military nature. As a purely defensive technology, the widespread deployment of cryptography will contribute greatly to the maintenance and promotion of regional and international security and stability and hence to the objectives that the Wassenaar purports to support. (Source: Gladman 1998)

Contrary to the provisions of the Wassenaar Agreement, export controls on cryptographic products now have a detrimental impact on bona fide civil transactions and this alone means that they can no longer be justified by this agreement. (Source: Bowden & Akdeniz 1999)

Worse still, the imposition of export controls on cryptographic products is preventing their use to protect the privacy of citizens and to protect the vital national infrastructures that now depend on networked computing resources for their safe operation. Far from hampering criminal and terrorist activities, controls on civil cryptographic products are promoting the evolution of a global information infrastructure that provides many easy targets for cyber-crime and information terrorism. (Source: Gladman 1998)

Export controls on cryptography hurt law-abiding companies and citizens without having any significant impact on the ability of criminals, terrorists or belligerent nations to obtain the cryptographic products that they need. Moreover such controls are now undermining the protection available with the civil information infrastructures on which society is increasingly dependent. Far from hampering crime and terrorism, they are helping to create an environment in which crime and terrorism can flourish with impunity. (Source: Bowden & Akdeniz 1999)

Encryption technology is a cardinal element of a viable electronic commerce framework. It serves two basic functions: it ensures the confidentiality of electronic data transmissions and allows senders and receivers to verify the origin and integrity of a transmission. In the world of asymmetric encryption, the dominant technology in this field, the latter function is performed using digital signatures and certificates, which rely on encryption, and which seem to require a public network of directories and certification authorities to validate the identity of public key holders. (Zielinski 1998)

4.5 DTI Proposal

In June 1996, the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) published a paper on the provision of encrypted services, including digital signatures. In a statement accompanying the release of the paper, DTI Minister Ian Taylor declared in Parliament:
"There is a growing demand for encryption services to safeguard the integrity and confidentiality of electronic information transmitted on public telecommunications networks. The Government therefore proposes to make arrangements for licensing Trusted Third Parties (TTPs) who would provide such services. These TTPs would offer digital signature, data integrity and retrieval, key management and other services for which there is a commercial demand. The licensing policy will aim to protect consumers as well as to preserve the ability of the intelligence and law enforcement agencies to fight serious crime and terrorism by establishing procedures for disclosure to them of the encryption keys, under safeguards similar to those which already exist for warranted interception under the Interception of Communications Act."

Electronic commerce has the potential to revolutionise the way business is done and improve the competitiveness of British industry. The Government has set the ambitious goal of developing the UK as the world’s best place in which to trade electronically and the Prime Minister has set the target that by 2002, 25% of dealings by citizens and businesses with government should be able to be done electronically. (DTI Consultation paper, March 1999)

People need to be confident about the identity of the person sending an electronic message to be sure that it hasn’t been tampered with, and in some cases that it has been kept confidential. The technology is available, but users need to be able to trust it and companies supplying it. The Government announced its intention to legislate in November 1998, to build trust in electronic commerce, by establishing a voluntary licensing system for providers of cryptographic services and by enabling legal recognition of "electronic signatures".

The government argues that serious criminals, including drug traffickers, paedophiles and terrorists, are turning to encryption to conceal their activities.

"Unchecked, this will make the work of law enforcement increasingly difficult. The Government therefore intends to provide the agencies responsible for tackling serious crime with the ability to acquire lawful access to material necessary to decrypt communications or stored data." (Source: DTI Consultation Paper, March 1999t)

"Privacy considerations suggest not to limit the use of cryptography as a means to ensure data security and confidentiality. The fundamental right of privacy has to be ensured, but may be restricted for other legitimate reasons such as safeguarding national security or combating crime, if these restrictions are appropriate, effective, necessary and proportionate in order to achieve these other objectives." (Source: EU STOA Report, 1998)

4.6 The Business Software Alliance

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) issued a position paper, according to which governmental policies that restrict encryption violate personal liberty, are anti-competitive, anti-progress and are in fact a moot point in the sense that a government cannot restrict what is freely found over the Internet, a forum not governed by any government.

The impossibility for any government to regulate the global Internet is indeed a key argument to oppose the regulation of encryption technology per se.

According to Susan Landau, the US government policy to go ahead with proposals in this field is mired in Cold War Beliefs that where the US leads, the allies will follow. She adds that by pressing for key escrow and stifling the development of secure communication products, the US government runs the very real danger that it will ultimately weaken its computer industry and leave US communication systems open to disruption by hackers and more dangerous forces.

4.7 ICC

The German branch of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) also referred to technical arguments to demonstrate that encryption controls are ineffectual:

In practice it cannot be ascertained whether and how a message is encrypted. For example, both pictures (stenography) and audio files can be used to disguise encryption;

The number or other identifying information of the person to be screened must be known. Telephone and identification numbers are more and more being stored on chip-cards, which can also be exchanged and used at will while travelling and abroad ;

A sufficient possibility to access the communications networks used must exist.

This is already today not always the case, and will be further limited by the growing number of communications networks (fixed networks, mobile telephones, Internet, satellite networks) which can be used.

4.8 Trusted Third Parties (TTPs)

Hard liners hold that "strong cryptography is vital for [US] national infrastructure," so vital that they only want the defence community to have access to it. Business and citizens must make do with weaker versions and nobody is allowed to export the strong brew. Among the hard liners, there are contending views about key escrow/key recovery encryption (the storage of encryption keys with "trusted third parties", or TTPs), with one group arguing that key escrow is the best way to regulate access, and the other group maintaining that critical infrastructures are rendered more vulnerable to attack with an architecture that allows third parties, however, trusted, to have access to encoded communication. (Source: Zielinski 1998[1])

The term Trusted Third Party is unfortunately ambiguous. It originally meant merely a Certification Authority (which has no technical or commercial need to escrow private keys) however the term is now usually synonymous with software escrow, for the simple reason it is a mandatory requirement of government proposals for regulation of TTPs.

The role of a TTP/CA is to provide (for a fee) a certificate that authenticates (on the authority of the TTP organisation) that a public encryption key or a public digital signature key actually belongs to the named owner. TTPs can function as escrow agencies, by insisting that the private decryption key is surrendered to (or generated by) the TTP, and held in a database for safe-keeping. If a key-owner loses her private key, she can apply for a replacement copy from the TTP. A law enforcement agency could also apply for a copy of the private key with a judicial warrant, without the knowledge of the key owner.

Financial and legal institutions, telecommunications companies, Internet content vendors, and network service providers could all act as TTPs, although there is little consensus about how many a regulated market could support, the tariff structure, or the degree of vertical integration and conflict of interest which should be permitted.

The Data Protection Registrar's Twelfth Annual Report stated that there are several problems to be resolved before setting up a TTP system:

"Who would supervise it; who would the TTPs be; what products be used; how could you stop users from bypassing the system ... would a TTP be able to offer services on a European or even a global basis?"

On the opposing side, we have libertarians arguing that citizens have the right to encrypt their messages using the strongest encryption in such a way that no-one, and particularly not the government, can read them. They do not accept the storage of encryption keys, or key escrow, with the government and distrust the notion of key escrow with a trusted third party or other outside body responsible to the government. (Source: Zielinski 1998 [1])

Since the Clipper initiative in the US, there has been vigorous debate on escrow in the US by non-governmental organisations such as Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and the Electronic Privacy Information Centre (EPIC). Although most of the Internet community are by now to some degree aware of the issues (for example via campaign banners on many World Wide Web pages), there is scant understanding of these issues amongst the general public, especially outside the US. The general position of non-governmental organisations has been to oppose escrow.

Most people would accept the need for democratic governments to intercept communications on a limited scale, for detection and investigation of crime, and for defence of the realm. According to the FBI, wiretapping is crucial to effective law enforcement:

"If the FBI and local police were to loose the ability to tap telephones because of the widespread use of strong-cryptography, the country would be unable to protect itself against terrorism, violent crime, foreign threats, drug trafficking, espionage, kidnapping, and other crimes." (Source: FBI Report, 1999)

Without this capability, governments would be less able to protect the safety of the public, and this in itself would constitute an infringement of civil liberties. The question is not whether any such interception is wrong, but whether it is safe to entrust all future governments in perpetuity with an unprecedented technical capability for mass surveillance. The state strategy seems naive as it assumes that criminals will use encryption tools that can be decrypted by law enforcement bodies. But government capabilities for automated (and archived) large-scale surveillance could have a chilling effect on the private expression of political opinions by the law-abiding. Although the Internet community is presently a politically negligible minority, as the convergence of electronic media proceeds, there are plausible scenarios for serious and cumulative erosion of the democratic process. It is a sea of change in the relationship of the citizen to the state.

The DTI described their framework as voluntary because those wishing to use any other cryptographic solutions can continue to do so, but they will not be able to benefit from the convenience, and interoperability of licensed TTP's. Without mechanisms to establish trust, this is analogous to saying that friends may freely converse in private, but public meetings can only be arranged in venues wired for eavesdropping. (Source: Bowden & Akdeniz 1999)

The key owner would thus be obliged indirectly to pay the costs of the TTP meeting much more stringent licensing criteria, and the TTP's insurance against negligent disclosure or employee malfeasance. Moreover the absolute amount of any damages claim will be limited by statute, and the TTP indemnified against claims arising from government access. The DTI also suggested that contracts made with digital signatures might only be presumed valid if certified by licensed TTPs.

Furthermore, the need for third party access is not limited to governments. Individuals and businesses may need to gain access to encrypted information also: for instance, if a keyholder dies leaving encrypted information but no key to decrypt it, or if an employee who has encrypted a file resigns without leaving information concerning the decryption key. Individuals or businesses that encrypt data may wish to store a copy of cryptographic keys in a repository, which would allow lawful access in such cases.

Who Uses Cryptography?

Government / Military Uses of Cryptography.

Governments use cryptography to protect information that is sometimes highly valuable to other neighbouring nations, for example, in determining whether they are planning or considering offensive military action.

If a belligerent nation is threatening regional stability it will have to take a number of actions that will often be reflected in its information exchanges, both within its borders and with overseas countries and organisations that are sympathetic to its cause. In this respect governments use cryptography to protect such information exchanges in order to hide their intentions. Again therefore, even though cryptography is a purely defensive technology, it can be exploited by a belligerent nation to the possible disadvantage of its peaceful neighbours.

Within the scope of this dissertation we will not expand further on the military uses of encryption.

Civil Uses of Encryption

As the economies of the nations of the world become increasingly information based there is a growing recognition of the importance of commercial cryptographic products in protecting both information and information processing assets. (Source: Gladman 1998)

Many companies now operate internationally in highly competitive markets and their advantage over their competitors increasingly depends on the effectiveness with which they co-ordinate and plan their actions and avoid knowledge of their intentions being seen by their competitors.

There is also a rapidly developing interest in electronic commerce, where there is universal acceptance of the role that cryptographic products will play in its development and in the protection of consumers. Cryptographic products are essential for making the Internet safe and hence have a central role in the prevention of criminal behaviour in cyberspace. In this respect, therefore, the free and unconstrained availability of cryptographic products is essential if society is to be able to defend itself against criminals. (Source: Gladman 1998)

Export controls are already doing significant damage to this civil market. The reality of export controls is not that they prevent criminals from obtaining cryptographic protection but rather that they prevent the vast majority of law-abiding companies and citizens from obtaining the protection they now need. (Source: Gladman 1998)

The detrimental impact on cryptographic product suppliers is enormous. There is already a big market for commercial cryptographic products but export controls prevent the companies involved from effectively exploiting this market. The cost is measured in millions, if not billions, of dollars and the economic harm being done is now immeasurable. This directly contravenes item 4 of the Wassenaar Agreement where it is very clearly stated that it will not impede bona fide civil transactions. Moreover the radically different interpretations of Wassenaar controls on cryptography by different countries leaves some suppliers unable to compete in this market whilst others can supply civil products with no difficulties whatsoever. Of course some nations will argue that those who are not controlling civil cryptographic products are not meeting their obligations under the Wassenaar Agreement but this is clearly incorrect since item 4 of its statement of purpose very clearly states that it "will not impede bona fide civil transactions". (Source: Bowden & Akdeniz 1999)

Protection of Privacy

The respect of privacy and the confidentiality of personal information are important values in a democratic society. Privacy is now at greater risk because in the emerging information and communications infrastructure neither open networks, nor many types of private networks, were designed with confidentiality of communications and storage of data in mind. However, cryptography forms the basis for a new generation of privacy enhancing technologies. The use of effective cryptography in a network environment can help protect the privacy of personal information and the secrecy of confidential information. The failure to use cryptography in an environment where data is not completely secure can put a number of interests at risk, including public safety and national security. In some cases, such as where national law calls for maintaining the confidentiality of data, or protecting critical infrastructures, governments may require the use of cryptography of a minimum strength. (Source: OECD Guidelines 1997)

At the same time, the use of cryptography to ensure the integrity of data in electronic transactions can also have implications for privacy. The use of networks for all kinds of transactions will increasingly generate vast quantities of data that can be easily and cheaply stored, analysed, and reused. When these operations require proof of identity, the transactional data will leave detailed and perhaps irrefutable trails of an individual’s commercial activity, as well as paint a picture of private, non-commercial activities such as political associations, participation in online discussions, and access to specific types of information in online libraries or other databases. The key certification process also has implications for privacy because data can be collected when a certification authority binds an individual to a key pair.

5.3 Criminal Uses of Encryption

The ability of encryption to ensure the confidentiality and the content of important messages, files or communications of corporations and private citizens can also prevent those same entities from gaining plaintext access to that critical information should the keys needed for decryption become lost or corrupted. Unless there is an alternative plaintext access method, such as a recovery feature incorporated in the encryption product to allow such plaintext access, this important information could be lost forever. The use of encryption can effectively prevent plaintext access not only to law enforcement acting under proper legal authority, but also to corporations in situations where an employee could potentially use encryption to commit illegal acts, including acts against the corporation.

"There is also growing recognition of the potential misuses of encryption, such as by disgruntled employees as a means to sabotage an employer's database."
(Source: FBI Report 1999)

Encryption can also be used to conceal criminal activity and thwart law enforcement efforts to collect critical evidence needed to prevent, solve and prosecute serious and often violent criminal activities, including illegal drug trafficking, organised crime, child pornography and terrorism. In these instances, the use of encryption to secure the content or confidentiality of information poses substantial threats to law enforcement's abilities to:
interpret and analyse stored electronic records and files which have been obtained through court-order or other lawful procedures; and
perform court-ordered electronic surveillance. Encrypted information obtained through the use of lawfully intercepted communications and/or lawfully accessed electronic records or files will be useless in solving crimes and preventing criminal activity unless law enforcement, pursuant to a court order, has immediate access to the plaintext of such encrypted, criminally-related communications and electronically stored data.
(Source: FBI Report, 1999)

There are numerous cases of paedophiles using encryption to conceal their illegal activity from the attentions of law enforcement. In 1995, for example, two suspected paedophiles were arrested by police in the UK on suspicion of distributing child pornography on the Internet. Their computer systems were found to contain pornographic images of children and, in the case of the leading suspect, a large amount of encrypted material. The indications were that the suspects had used encrypted communications to distribute child pornography to contacts around the world via e-mail. (Source: DTI - Building Confidence in Electronic Commerce, 1999)

Although both paedophiles were subsequently convicted of distributing child pornography, the police investigation into the leading suspect was severely hampered by the fact that they had used encryption. (Source: DTI - Building Confidence in Electronic Commerce, 1999)

At least eight major FBI field offices have identified the use of encryption by the subjects of foreign counter- intelligence and international terrorism investigations in a deliberate attempt by these subjects to protect their suspected criminally-related communications and prevent detection by law enforcement of their suspected criminal activities.

In addition to the previously stated example of a child pornography case where pornographic images of children were encrypted and transmitted between subjects, there continues to be evidence of the increased use of encryption by a number of subjects involved in the sexual exploitation of children and child pornography who are utilising various commercially available encryption products to protect suspected criminally-related information and communications as well as to protect their illegal pornographic images of children from discovery and detection.

There are also numerous ongoing FBI investigations involving illegal hacker intrusions into several university and government computer systems as well as software piracy in which the subjects of these investigations have encrypted potentially incriminating information which, if decrypted, could indicate the level of their involvement in these illegal activities as well as disclose the specific information stolen from these various computer systems.

In 1998, police enquiries into a case of attempted murder and sexual assault were impeded by the discovery of encrypted material on a suspect's computer. The investigation was able to proceed only after the relevant encryption key was discovered by the police amongst other material seized from the suspect.

The Serious Fraud Office currently estimates that in approximately 50% of its cases, some form of encryption is encountered. Instances of computer files protected by various complexities of encryption have been found in a number of recent investigations. The problem is growing, and attempts to overcome the encryption are absorbing resources which could otherwise be deployed elsewhere. (Source: DTI - Building Confidence in Electronic Commerce, 1999)

Commercial interests face a range of potential threats from improper use of encryption. Individuals involved in corporate espionage and insider theft will naturally be drawn to encryption devices as a means of concealing their activities. There have been attempts to extort money from businesses by placing enciphered viruses into computer systems (so-called cryptoviral extortion). Law enforcement agencies would be better able to investigate such criminal activity if they had a power to obtain relevant encryption keys.

There are already examples of terrorists in the UK using encryption as a means of concealing their activities. In late 1996, a police operation culminated in the arrests of several leading members of a Northern Irish terrorist group and the seizure of computer equipment containing encrypted files. The files held information on potential terrorist targets such as police officers and politicians. The data was eventually retrieved but only after considerable effort. (Source: DTI - Building Confidence in Electronic Commerce, 1999)

The use of encryption by criminals and terrorists is a global problem.

In the US, the FBI found that the laptop computer belonging to Ramzi Yousef (who masterminded the terrorist bombing of the World Trade Centre in 1994 and of a Manila airliner in late 1995) contained encrypted files concerning a terrorist plot to blow up 11 US owned commercial airliners. (Source: FIRST Conference, Mexico 1998)

In Japan, the Aum Supreme Truth Cult which was responsible for the release of Sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway in March 1995, killing 12 people and injuring some 6,000 more, stored its records on encrypted computer files. The authorities were able to decrypt the files and the evidence they found was crucial to the investigation. (Source: FIRST Conference, Mexico 1998)

6.0 Conclusions

"I worry about terrorists and criminals using PGP but I can't see how to give cryptography to the masses without making it available to terrorists and criminals." (Source: Zimmerman 1995)

The rapidly changing world of information security has radically altered the ways in which we communicate and exchange information. Along with the speed, efficiency, and cost-saving benefits of the digital revolution come new challenges to the security and privacy of communications and information.

Cryptography can also be used to allow for the anonymous dissemination of information, such as reports on human rights abuses, and to ensure that documents of human rights groups are not tampered with or altered after release. This is evident in Appendix E.

The individual privacy and security, and hence society's added security, offered by cryptography has been largely ignored by the government through its "blinkered", Defence-oriented view.

On the surface, encryption is an extremely useful tool, allowing individuals and companies to keep their secrets available only to those trusted parties they desire. This is obviously highly desirable. But, like any technology, it can have its evil uses. Criminals and terrorists can use it to protect their secrets also, and even possibly circumvent the general security of the state. This is evidently not a light matter, and requires serious consideration.

However it appears that no matter what decision is made certain people will win and certain people will lose. Should we penalise the 99.9% of the population who would use cryptography for only good and legal means by banning the use cryptography by individuals? Or is the 0.1% of the danger element too much to risk?

No matter which way the see-saw swings there is a valid case either way.

Copyright 1998 Simon Baker
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