Terrorism attacks renew debate over encryption software

    Date25 Sep 2001
    CategoryCryptography
    3133
    Posted ByAnthony Pell
    In a terror-induced climate of heightened electronic vigilance, debate is brewing over whether makers of encryption software should be obliged to provide law enforcement with the keys to open scrambled messages. Phil Zimmermann and fellow encryption supporters thought they had won the battle two years ago when the U.S. government decided to permit the export of full-strength encryption software without requiring programmers to hand over spare keys.. . . In a terror-induced climate of heightened electronic vigilance, debate is brewing over whether makers of encryption software should be obliged to provide law enforcement with the keys to open scrambled messages. Phil Zimmermann and fellow encryption supporters thought they had won the battle two years ago when the U.S. government decided to permit the export of full-strength encryption software without requiring programmers to hand over spare keys.

    The September 11 attacks changed the atmosphere, and at least one senator has since called for making keys available. U.S. intelligence says Osama bin Laden's terrorist organization has used e-mail and encryption to communicate.

    Currently, agents monitoring e-mail traffic may know two suspected terrorists are talking but can't determine what they are saying. Giving government the keys could help terrorists before they strike, says Gene Poteat, president of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.

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