The Desk Potato Crypto Page
|The US (and now the Canadian Government) are being blinded by Law
Enforcement officials run amok and are heading down a dangerous path to put us all at
risk. This is the start of a serious section of the Desk Potato site, the culmination of
almost two years of research and over 200 clipped articles and links. Please comment on
this initial draft to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Encryption is Your Friend
As soon as the word "Encryption" is mentioned, many people seem to turn off a switch and don't realize what it means to them. Encryption is what keeps your sensitive and valuable information safe when you communicate with the outside world. It keeps criminals from hacking into your on-line purchases and stealing your credit card information. It keeps your private information secret so hackers can't steal your identity and get you into trouble.
Encryption also helps identify the source of the information and ensures that it hasn't been altered along the way. Encryption and digital signing will keep you from being accused of saying something you didn't.
It helps keep hackers out of your computer files. It is like the lock on the door to your electronic life. For years, the US government has been preventing safe encryption written by American companies from being exported. First they classified crypto products as munitions. Then they put them under trade restrictions as restricted technology. Due to trade agreements, Canadians can also use that software so long as they agree to be bound by the same restrictions.
Software written in Canada is not under the same restrictions. Software from other countries doesn't have that problem. What the bureaucrats haven't figured out is that encryption is just math. It's like saying that you can't export any equations with an answer of 42. Anyone on the outside can come up with an infinite number of equations equaling 42, but you can't sell yours until it's obsolete.
Key Escrow (AKA. Key Recovery)
This is one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation ever attempted by government and most people haven't even noticed. The media hasn't even caught on!
Eleven of the top encryption experts in the world concluded that it is a dangerous and bad idea. A year later they reported that it was even worse than they first thought. The US government tried for a year to prove them wrong and failed. In April 1998, the Canadian government in a stunning move proposed moving Canadian crypto policy in the direction of the US mess.
The current plans are absurd if you look at this exact equivalent example: A law which limits the length of the deadbolt in your front door to 3/8 inch. Any longer might hinder law enforcement officials if they need to break-into your house undetected. If you install a deadbolt of 1/2 inch or longer, you must make a copy of the key, and mail it in an envelope with your return address to "House Key Escrow, c/o the Government".
As you can plainly see, security limits and key escrow only weaken the security of your house, and provide an opportunity for someone to intercept your key. The risk of crime against you far outweigh the risk that a crime might be committed by someone with a lock on their door. If someone were actually committing a crime, do you think they would hesitate to bar their door?
Encryption also helps protect us from people in positions of power who want to abuse that power for their own misguided purposes. Ok, now you're thinking I've let it slip that I'm one of those conspiracy theory fanatics who believe the X-Files is a true story. Not at all. People in power have always abused it when it suited their needs. Power makes people feel superior. From the traffic cop who will nail someone who is late for work and going 10 km/h over the speed limit but routinely drives 30 km/h over the limit to get back at the end of his shift to Naval Investigators who feel it is their duty to hunt down gay naval officers, there are countless examples of this. The best defense against this kind of abuse is to keep private information private.
For More Information
For more information on these issues, see the following locations:
And a few of the stories I've been following