[ISN] House Bill Would Ban Crucial Crypto Research

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Tue Jun 16 1998 - 00:26:22 PDT

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    House Bill Would Ban Crucial Crypto Research
    By Will Rodger, ZDNet
    Research crucial to producing secure computer systems in the U.S. could be
    banned outright if wording in proposed legislation to extend copyright law
    to cyberspace becomes law, experts warned last week. 
    "This is scary. Everything we've worked for could go away," said Bruce
    Schneier, author of the seminal text Applied Cryptography. 
    With just days to go before the House Telecommunications Subcommittee
    votes on the measure, industry lobbyists and cryptographers are scrambling
    to convince drafters of the House World Intellectual Property Organization
    Copyright Treaties Implementation Act to strike language that would ban
    devices "primarily" designed to circumvent copyright protections such as
    digital watermarks and validation codes. 
    Those protections are crucial to preventing online counterfeiting. But
    making sure they remain secure requires that computer technologists try to
    break them in the first place, rendering nonsensical distinctions between
    legitimate software used to test computer security and the hacking tools
    the bill would attempt to ban. Satan, a freely available software tool
    used for network analysis by computer security specialists, for instance,
    also is a favorite tool of network vandals. 
    In a June 4 letter, the Association for Computing Machinery urged
    Telecommunications Subcommittee Chairman Billy Tauzin, R-La., to drop
    anti-circumvention language affecting cryptographic research as well as
    basic network operations. 
    "Often, the exact same technology [encryption] is used to control access
    both to a copyrighted digital work and to certain components of a computer
    security system," wrote Barbara Simons, ACM Public Policy Chair. "System
    operators have important, legitimate reasons to circumvent such access
    control technologies to confirm the security of the password file or other
    vulnerable elements of the system." 
    Senate drafters dealt with the same issues before passing a companion bill
    last month, but left their clarifications to a report accompanying the
    bill rather than the bill itself. This time, computer groups want language
    in the bill itself. 
    The Senate can be reached at www.senate.gov
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