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Hackernoon logoThe Government's Impact on Encryption by@wagslane

The Government's Impact on Encryption

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@wagslaneLane Wagner

Bitcoinist, libertarian, atheist, cryptography fan, and founder of

Anyone who has seen the movie The Imitation Game, or studied computer science in school, probably has at least a brief understanding of Enigma, Alan Turing, and some of the other fun cryptography that went on during WWII. During this time and until the 1970's, governments from around the world had near total control of all cryptographic systems.

Whitfield Diffie and Martin Hellman invented Public key cryptography in 1976. This new kind of asymmetric cryptography revolutionized cryptography. It also allowed the public to use it for the first time.

Crypto Wars

When scientists first invented public key cryptography, the NSA tried to restrict access and keep the work classified. The NSA and military were the only entities in the USA with access to secure encryption standards. Ever since access to strong encryption was given to the public, the government has used many tactics to keep a stranglehold on encryption.

During the cold war, the USA classified encryption technology as munitions. This allowed the State Department to control exports of the technology. In other words, even if Americans made discoveries and advances in technology, they couldn't necessarily share those discoveries with people of other nations.

The clipper chip was an attempt by the Clinton administration to get companies to use a specific chip for encryption which the government had back-door access to.

In 2013 Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA had a secret project called Bullrun. It had the goal of cracking encrypted communication in order to gain access to the citizenry's private information.

In 2014 James Comey, then FBI director, called for front-door access to all secure communications via keys given to the government by companies offering encryption products.

James Comey, FBI

In 2019 American congressman Brad Sherman called for congress to pass legislation that would make Bitcoin and cryptocurrency purchases illegal.

It is Never Over

We thought the crypto wars had ended in 2005, with Part I of the Electronic Communications Act 2000 being removed, and open source encryption widely available for public use. It is clear however that there are still those in power that would have the government be able to control and censor all financial transactions and communications online.

Stay safe online, and keep your liberties in mind. The government does not grant you liberty and freedom. They are simple human rights that we should protect at all costs.


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