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PART I
Framing the Policy Issues

PART I IS INTENDED TO EXPLICATE the fundamental issues underlying national cryptography policy. Chapter 1 outlines basic elements of a critical problem facing the nation—the increasing vulnerability of information, a commodity that has become essential to national well-being and future opportunity. This vulnerability results from a number of trends, including the explosive growth of digital communications and data storage, the increasingly international dimensions of business, and the growing dependence of the nation on a number of critical information systems and networks. Chapter 2 describes how cryptography can play an important role in reducing the information vulnerability of the nation, of businesses, and of private individuals. Chapter 2 also places cryptography into context, as one element of an overall approach to information security, as a product that responds to factors related to both supply and demand, and as a technology whose large-scale use requires a supporting infrastructure. Chapter 3 discusses public policy issues raised by the need for access to encrypted information. The prospect of near-absolute confidentialty of information—a prospect enabled by modern cryptography—is reassuring to some and quite disturbing to others. Important public policy issues are raised by law enforcement authorities, who regard the ability to obtain information surreptitiously but legally as essential to their crime-fighting abilities, and by national security authorities, who place a high value on the ability to monitor the communications of potential adversaries. Even private individuals, who might wish to encrypt records securely, may face the need to recover their data as though they were outsiders if they have forgotten how to gain ''legitimate" access; the same is true for businesses in many situations.



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OCR for page 17
Page 17 PART I Framing the Policy Issues PART I IS INTENDED TO EXPLICATE the fundamental issues underlying national cryptography policy. Chapter 1 outlines basic elements of a critical problem facing the nation—the increasing vulnerability of information, a commodity that has become essential to national well-being and future opportunity. This vulnerability results from a number of trends, including the explosive growth of digital communications and data storage, the increasingly international dimensions of business, and the growing dependence of the nation on a number of critical information systems and networks. Chapter 2 describes how cryptography can play an important role in reducing the information vulnerability of the nation, of businesses, and of private individuals. Chapter 2 also places cryptography into context, as one element of an overall approach to information security, as a product that responds to factors related to both supply and demand, and as a technology whose large-scale use requires a supporting infrastructure. Chapter 3 discusses public policy issues raised by the need for access to encrypted information. The prospect of near-absolute confidentialty of information—a prospect enabled by modern cryptography—is reassuring to some and quite disturbing to others. Important public policy issues are raised by law enforcement authorities, who regard the ability to obtain information surreptitiously but legally as essential to their crime-fighting abilities, and by national security authorities, who place a high value on the ability to monitor the communications of potential adversaries. Even private individuals, who might wish to encrypt records securely, may face the need to recover their data as though they were outsiders if they have forgotten how to gain ''legitimate" access; the same is true for businesses in many situations.

OCR for page 17