Cryptography companies will gather next week at the RSA Data Security Conference in San Francisco to unveil new products at a time when digital security is hot, politically and economically.
In addition to a host of product announcements--including secure hardware systems, digital certificates, and smart cards--next week's conference will provide a forum for a continuing debate over the role of the federal legislators and intelligence agencies in the regulation of encryption. Specifically, the concerns will focus on whether the government should liberalize export laws to promote e-commerce or keep a tight lid on the use of cryptography to prevent criminal abuse.
One highlight will be Tuesday's keynote speech from David Aron, President Clinton's newly appointed special envoy for cryptographic issues. Dubbed the "crypto czar," Aron's mission is to work with foreign governments on a global infrastructure that would give law enforcement authorities access to private encryption keys.
The administration's latest rules governing the export of encryption and encrypted software have been a major source of contention in the cryptography industry. Even though the new regulations are now in place, the industry will continue to lobby Congress for more favorable provisions through the so-called Pro-Code bill, which seeks to ban mandatory key-storage systems. (See related story)
But in the meantime, cryptography technology companies must modify their software to provide what is known as "key recovery" or "key escrow"--that is, a way to store cyrptography keys with third parties. This is a necessary condition under new regulations if companies want to get a license to export stronger encryption.
Companies such as Trusted Information Systems that already offer key recovery technology could profit greatly while their competitors look to catch up, and these firms will trumpet their technological prowess at next week's conference. Others will simply try to profit from the wider attention in security products that the larger policy debate has engendered.
These are some of the new announcements to be discussed next week:
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