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The Clipper Chip debate.

In April, the White House introduced the Clipper Chip as part of its initiative to secure telephone communications without depriving law enforcement of a valuable tool, namely wiretapping. Since its introduction, a discussion of its merits and problems has ensued.

The Clipper Chip is a microcircuit that can be used in an inexpensive encryption device and attached to any phone. The chip scrambles the communications using a powerful algorithm while giving law enforcement agencies the ability to intercept conversations. Use of this technology would be voluntary for both private companies and government contractors.

Access to scrambled communications will be gained through a key-escrow system. Each chip is assigned two unique keys when manufactured. Those keys will then be given to two separate yet-to-be-chosen agencies for storage in key-escrow databases. For law enforcement officials to have access to those keys, they will have to show proper authorization to both agencies.

Jim Ross, president of Ross Engineering in Sterling, Virginia, which provides countersurveillance services, training, and equipment, says that the chip is a bad idea. "I don't think Uncle Sam has any business listening to my conversations," he explains.

On the other side of the argument is Dorothy Denning, professor and chair of the computer science department at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and author Of Cryptography and Data Security. The Clipper Chip simultaneously solves two goals, she explains. "One is to provide a very strong level of encryption and security to protect private proprietary information and ... at the same time it gives law enforcement access with court orders."

While Ross objects to the system's lack of privacy, he does not doubt the government's ability to develop an effective security product. Hard evidence of its effectiveness is not yet available because the system is still being reviewed by an independent panel of experts.

Ross is sympathetic toward law enforcement professionals but firmly believes the Clipper Chip will not help them do their job. The criminals are not going to use this system, he observes. "They are either going to double encrypt or triple encrypt, or they are going to use some encryption scheme that the government has never heard of," Ross says. "If you think the thing through, it really doesn't make any sense."

He suggests letting the free market run its course. Ross believes that some encryption devices already on the market provide adequate security, he thinks that companies should be free to develop their own eneryption methods.

Denning agrees with Ross that the system is probably quite secure. "There are plenty of things in our society that have been protected against hackers," she observes. "I have not heard of hackers who have actually broken into classified military computers." And, she explains, breaking into this system would not just be a matter of knowing the right password; classified information would have to be obtained to build a decoder box.

Denning does not share Ross' fear of governmental abuse, however. She thinks this system is less prone to such abuse than conventional wiretapping. While a court order is all that is needed to tap both a regular line and one scrambled by the Clipper Chip, Denning says that having two guardian agencies will act as more of a deterrent.

She also concedes that getting criminals to use the system will be a problem. As a solution, Denning suggests legislation that places some constraints on the use of other products. This would force criminals to come up with their own solutions, costing them time and money that they might not be willing to sacrifice, she explains.

The Clipper Chip will be included in an encryption device manufactured by AT&T. It is expected to be available by the end of the summer.

The Passport Fortified

The U.S. passport is sporting a new lock. Fitted with more protective armor, the fortified passport promises to make it more difficult for criminals to forge the valuable document.

"There are counterfeiters out there," says Nyda Budig, a public affairs officer for the Bureau of Consular Affairs, "You have to try and stay one step ahead."

To do so the State Department decided to protect against some of the most common forgeries, which, according to Budig, are doctored data and substituted photos. The new passports use paper and dye that are difficult to copy and a stronger photo laminate.

Inside the document shines a kinegram. A kinegram is like a hologram, only more resistant to counterfeiting. While a hologram shows only one image; a kinegram flashes different images, making it harder to replicate. The passport kinegram shows Benjamin Franklin from two different angles and then flashes U.S.A.

A tribute is also given to Franklin in written form on the back of the document. According to Budig, the new passport is an acknowledgment of the states. man's service as one of the earliest consular officers.

To make it easier for customs officials to differentiate the new document from the old one, green has replaced blue as the cover color. The State Department started issuing the new passports in the United States in April but will not issue the now version overseas until old stocks run out. According to Budig, there is no need for people to run out and get the new green passports until their old one expires.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:securing telephone communications
Author:Arbetter, Lisa
Publication:Security Management
Date:Aug 1, 1993
Words:884
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