Encryption Devices

COMPUTER SECURITY GUIDE

Data-scrambling techniques protect confidentiality of information.

Cryptography, the science of encoding messages, goes back to the time of the ancient Greeks. The Spartans substituted characters in text with other letters to keep correspondence secret. Similar techniques have been used throughout the years by soldiers and spies. Now the Information Age has ushered in sometimes controversial encryption techniques to protect the confidentiality and integrity of information distributed via computers.

Modern-day data-scrambling products use complex mathematical algorithms to translate digital files into unreadable code that only can be deciphered by those with appropriate decoding devices. Such encryption is critical for electronic commerce or for transmitting classified information over public networks.

Some encryption devices are hardware-based, such as Paralon's PathKey product or GTE and Cylink's InfoGuard asynchronous transfer mode cell encryptor. Software-based packages, such as Electronic Publishing Resources' DigiBox and IBM's Cryptolopes, can be used to protect digital copyrights.

Two types of technology exist for encoding transmissions: public-key and private-key encryption systems. With private-key encryption, both parties share one key - or mathematical value-for encryption and decryption. IBM's Data Encryption Standard, endorsed as a Federal Information Processing Standard in 1977, is the most popular algorithm for private-key encryption.

With public-key encryption, such as that sold by Mykotronx and RSA Data Security, each user holds a public key and a secret key. The Clinton Administration had wanted to make the public-key Escrowed Encryption Standard (EES) mandatory in the federal government. The technology, which uses the National Security Agency's classified Clipper algorithm, calls for special decoding chips to be installed in equipment. Each chip contains a Law Enforcement Access Field that enables intelligence and law-enforcement agencies to unscramble encrypted messages with keys held in escrow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Treasury Department.

Critics have charged that EES makes it too easy for the government to play Big Brother and bills have been introduced to prohibit government-mandated encryption methods. A policy shift would enable agencies to use more encryption products embedded in popular commercial software.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.