Political surrounding field

In many countries the application or the export of strong cryptographic procedures is legally limited. This does particularly apply to encryption methods with public keys. In this case users generate their own private and public keys but make only their public keys available to others. If additionally the codes are very long, one considers the procedure very safe. A program, which implements this principle, is PGP. For spreading it the American Phil Zimmermann was initially accused. In the USA cryptography is similar to weapons subject to export restrictions. In France as also in many other countries the application of PGP and other strong encryption programs is forbidden or restricted. The governments fear to loose their ability to completely monitor the communication of their citizens. This total surveillance system for electronic communication has been realized several years ago by the Echelon system. Even between the EU and the USA there are agreements for systematically wire-tapping electronic communication.

The beginnings of the politics for the limitation of cryptography take in particular the following forms:

Export restrictions:

Strong cryptography may not be exported or only if it is limited to short key lengths or if other back doors are inserted so that secret services can still monitor everything. One of the most prominent examples are the USA: The web brower which you are allowed to use outside the US can encrypt with a maximal key length of 40 bits. Hackers and secret services can crack that within shortest time.

Usage prohibition:

The selling and the application of strong cryptography are forbidden (see France).

Key Escrow:

Keys must be accepted from institutions that are controlled by secret services. So police and secret services can decrypt all encrypted messages. This method seems to apply if you use the encryption of the e-mail program being shipped with Microsoft Internet Explorer (MS Outlook).

Key Recovery:

A first approach is that parts of the key have to be deposited, so that the remainder can be calculated from it. A second possibility consists of permitting only such methods with which a reconstruction of the keys is possible in practical times. A less clumsy alternative is to deposit parts of the key in different institutions. Only if all or at least several institutions release their part of the secret key, communication can be monitored. So one could better limit wire tapping measures to criminals.

Essential references in summary:

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