Cryptology, Technology, and Policy

Susan Landau

Sun Microsystems

Telecommunication has never been perfectly secure, as the Cold War culture of wiretaps and international spying taught us. Yet many of us still take our privacy for granted, even as we become ever more reliant on telephones and computer networks. The security of these transactions has become a source of wide public concern and debate, and the US government has proposed various schemes to prevent the proliferation of unbreakable cryptography (and thus perfectly concealable communications).

What would be the cost to society if criminals concealed their communications using codes the government cannot decipher? How will U.S. economic competitiveness be affected by export controls on cryptographic systems? How important is protecting society from abuses by criminals and terrorists versus protecting personal privacy from all threats -- including potential eavesdropping by the government?

In this talk we consider the dual-edged sword cryptography presents to both law enforcement and national security, and we put the current policy on cyryptography in the context of decisions over the last twenty years.

Gates 498, 2/1/99, 4:15 PM