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Americans want Uncryption

Key escrow rides again

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Three in four Americans favour tough anti-encryption laws, in the wake of last week's terrorist atrocities, a survey finds.

Seventy-two per cent believe anti-encryption laws will be "somewhat" or "very" helpful in combating terrorism, according to the survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates.

The survey found that 54 per cent of those asked "would favour reducing encryption of communications to make it easier for the FBI and CIA to monitor the activities of suspected terrorists - EVEN IF it might infringe on people's privacy and affect business practices".

Ignore the civil liberties implications and concentrate on the practicality, or sheer lack of, of implementing Uncryption laws. Remember Key Escrow, the notion under which individuals and organisations must lodge their decryption government bodies? That put-the-backdoor-for-the-authorities-to-sneak-into-crypto-software was rejected as impractical, and inherently insecure.

An encryption product with a backdoor is easier to crack; this is not popular with the likes of banks which need to preserve the integrity of financial transactions.

So, cryptography presents a challenge to the legitimate interests of government in investigating terrorists and criminals. But the prohibition of strong crypto, would affect lawful businesses and individuals, while doing nothing to restrain evildoers.

To paraphrase Phil Zimmermann, the creator of the popular PGP email encryption package, only criminals will have access to encryption if the technology is criminalised. ®

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