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Security Portal: What the Lifting of Encryption Technology Restrictions Really Means

Nov 02, 1999, 03:02 (9 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by John D. Johnson)

"As we approach the turn of the century, one of the most controversial and challenging issues is encryption export policy. After a lot of controversy and debate, the Clinton administration announced pending changes to U.S. export control policy on September 16, 1999. While the details are still to be worked out, it appears the White House is supporting the position of U.S. companies to ease export restrictions on encryption technology and expects the changes to take effect on December 15, 1999. This would allow U.S. companies to sell the most powerful data-scrambling technologies to foreign countries, almost without any restrictions...."

"Part of the plans to relax restrictions on encryption technology export is the exclusion of the original source code. Source code are the lines of instructions that programmers write that is compiled, a process that translates programming source code into ones and zeroes for reading by a computer. Relaxing the export of only encryption shrink-wrap software, not source code, prevents its modification by terrorists or criminals to make monitoring of their communications by law enforcement more difficult. This, along with the one-time technical review of products from high-tech companies wanting to sell encryption technology overseas, should help meet some of law enforcement's concerns about lifting export restrictions on encryption technology. Companies must still obtain export licenses to sell encryption technology to a foreign government or military. The seven nations banned from purchasing U.S. encryption technology because of their support for terrorism is Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, North Korea and Cuba."

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