By Al Giovetti



ENCRYPTION ISSUES BOIL OVER IN CONGRESS AND INDUSTRY AS DES STANDARD IS CRACKED; NEW LEGISLATION LAGS, SAYS NEW BUSINESSTECH EDITORIAL. 06/23/97 -- NEW YORK, NY -- The U.S. Senate announced that it is about to introduce a bill changing the treatment of encryption technologies in the US to allowing greater use of the 56-bit "data key." This information was released at the same time as news hit that computer scientists and cypherpunks had won a challange to decode that same 56-bit DES data key . "The cracking of DES is of critical importance for ecommerce, the Internet, and the World Wide Web," according to the latest BusinessTech Editorial. "DES is the accepted cryptographic standard currently used by government and commercial financial institutions to protect important financial data and information, for example, routine currency transfers between national commercial banks," the Editorial explains. "The stubbornness of the US government on cryptography issues is tied to various law enforcement and intelligence-gathering initiatives by agencies such as the FBI, CIA and NSA. The NSA, with top secret operations and an extraordinarily complete collection of the latest and most powerful computer gear, routinely reads international wire traffic. The NSA uses its large computer systems to break crypto codes, but thanks to breakthroughs in cryptographic technologies such as public key and long key systems, law enforcement and intelligence agencies can no longer crack strongly encrypted data," the Editorial continues. The dispute stems from the fact that strong encryption is already widely available and has been for more than a decade. US software companies are allowed to supply strong encryption in products that are distributed within the US, but all of their products destined for locations outside US borders must contain weaker encryption systems. "Once strong encryption is allowed to be sold, distributed and exported, electronic commerce and other forms of business on the net will be set free," according to the Editorial. "Concerns about the security of online transactions will whither away and electronic financial transactions will blossom and spread across the globe. Emoney will arise and prosper, but only if it is properly protected. Encryption is the key to so much of the new Net age, and it is imperative that the forces holding it in check be defeated, the same way DES was cracked, by brute force, if necessary," concludes the controversial essay. Contact: Neal M. Goldsmith, Ph.D. & Edward Rosenfeld Voice: 212-431-8700

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