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Commentary: Export restrictions hinder the honest

Export restrictions are an artifact of the Cold War, when only the United States had the powerful computers needed for advanced cryptography and weapons design.

By Martin Reynolds, Gartner Analyst

Export restrictions are an artifact of the Cold War, when only the United States had the powerful computers needed for advanced cryptography and weapons design, and cryptography itself was still a secret science.

During the past decade, PCs and the open research of cryptography have rendered the restrictions pointless: Any smart programmer can implement uncrackable security algorithms using commonly available textbooks.

See news story:
White House suggests relaxing computer exports

The restrictions pose three main drawbacks. First, they have hindered the ability of U.S. companies to compete in worldwide markets. Second, they have hindered U.S. companies in implementing adequate security measures in international operations. Finally, they have contributed to a generally poor understanding of security throughout much of the market.

Silicon cryptography is important for protecting the privacy of users and the rights of content owners (within reason) as well as for helping corporate systems resist attacks by hackers. However, this market is stymied by export restrictions.

Thus, any move to relax these restrictions will benefit just about everybody--except those intent upon snooping on honest users. Making cryptography a crime does not deter criminals. That is why they are called "criminals."

(For related commentary, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

Entire contents, Copyright ? 2001 Gartner Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein represents Gartner's initial commentary and analysis and has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Positions taken are subject to change as more information becomes available and further analysis is undertaken. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof.