May 20, 1996


SUBJECT:   Draft paper, "Enabling Privacy, Commerce, Security
           and Public Safety in the Global Information 

FROM:      Bruce W. McConnell
           Edward J. Appel
           Co-Chairs, Interagency Working Group on Cryptography Policy

Attached for your review and comment is a draft paper entitled "Enabling Privacy, Commerce, Security and Public Safety in the Global Information Infrastructure." It presents a vision and course of action for developing a cryptographic infrastructure that will protect valuable information on national and international networks.

The draft paper is the result of the many discussions we have had with interested parties concerning the use of encryption. While those discussions have explored the use of both key recoverable encryption and non-recoverable encryption, the draft paper addresses an infrastructure which uses key recoverable encryption. We believe such a key management infrastructure, voluntary and supported by private sector key management organizations, is the prospect of the near future. It would permit users and manufacturers free choice of encryption algorithm, facilitate international interoperability, preserve law enforcement access, and, most importantly, provide strong system security and integrity.

Recognizing that a robust infrastructure is not yet a reality, we are also considering measures to liberalize export policy for some non-escrowed products. Appendix II of the draft paper begins to summarize current policy, and we intend to expand and improve that section.

We believe that clearly articulating such a vision will accelerate the ability of the United States to realize the full advantages of the global network for commerce, security and public safety. However, such a vision cannot become a reality unless it is widely shared. Therefore, rather than being a finished product, the attached paper is a draft which we ask you to help us improve. We hope it will contribute to constructive discussion and promote a clearer understanding of each others' needs and concerns regarding the use of encryption.

We welcome your comments and look forward to further discussion. Written comments may be sent to our attention, Room 10236, NEOB, Washington, D.C. 20503

Last Modified: May 17, 1996

Enabling Privacy, Commerce, Security and Public Safety in the Global Information Infrastructure

Statement of the Issue

This Paper outlines a course of action for developing an infrastructure that will protect valuable national information resources on national and international networks. Government and industry must work together to create a security management infrastructure and attendant products that incorporate robust cryptography without undermining national security and public safety. A policy for escrow of cryptographic keys which provides a basis for bilateral and multilateral government agreements must be determined so that industry can produce products for worldwide interoperability. Industry will participate in defining algorithms and protocol standards, and will develop key escrow encryption products suitable for the protection of both government and private sector information and which will assure timely, lawful, government decryption access. Government will help set standards for the Key Management Infrastructure (KMI) and deliver a market for robust security products. A KMI infrastructure and attendant key escrow products will provide many benefits, both domestic and internationally, as the US begins to realize the advantages of the global network for improved commerce, security and public safety.

I. Introduction

Government can no longer monopolize state of the art cryptography. It is no longer acceptable to argue that the only information of a compelling national security interest is government information. It is unrealistic to believe that government can produce solutions which keep ahead of today's rapidly changing information technology. Increasingly, all institutions, military, civil, or corporate, will communicate across common links. The nation's commerce is moving to networking. With these enormous changes, means must be found to responsibly raise the quality of cryptographic services without jeopardizing effective law enforcement, imperiling public safety.

Industry and government must partner in the development of a public key-based key management infrastructure and attendant products that will assure that participants can transmit and receive information electronically with confidence in the information's integrity, authenticity, and origin and which will assure timely lawful government access. When we conduct transactions, we rely on face-to-face interactions, or obtaining a signature on a paper, to have confidence that commitments will be fulfilled. Policies and infrastructure are needed to assure we can have at least the same degree of confidence when we interact electronically. Government bears a significant responsibility to ensure the information infrastructure has the features that are essential to such confidence.

There is a more compelling rationale for the government to be a partner in the development of the KMI. Not only has the Information Age sparked fundamental changes in the way we interact, but reliance on information systems makes our institutions vulnerable to an unprecedented degree. Almost all institutions on which public safety and national security depend, ranging from the power grid to military command and control, are at severe risk because of their presence in and dependence upon a global information infrastructure.

But the proliferation of quality cryptographic services is not without risk. Keys can be lost, stolen, or forgotten - rendering encrypted data useless. Additionally, the widespread use of encryption without safety features such as key recovery can pose serious risks to society. It will put at risk important law enforcement and national security investigations where electronic surveillance and search and seizure are essential in preserving and prosecuting crimes and, more importantly, in saving human life.

Public key cryptography allows for secure authenticated transactions with any party, known or unknown, with assurance of data integrity and non-repudiation of the transaction. These, features, together with increased network reliability, are needed to support electronic commerce, public services, redefined business processes and national security. But to achieve its promise, public key cryptography, must be based on a key management infrastructure and attendant products that tie individual and corporate identities to their public key through a series of Certificate Authorities (CA). The key management infrastructure to do this on a global scale will be very large and complex, but it is an essential foundation. Without a KMI of trusted certificate authorities, users cannot know with whom they are dealing on the network, or sending money to, or who signed a document, or if the document was intercepted and changed by a third party. Therefore, users cannot know with whom they are dealing on the network, or sending money to, or who signed a document, or if the document was intercepted and changed by a third party. Therefore, users will demand a strong key management infrastructure, which may, in turn, be based on a voluntary system of commercial certificate authorities (CAs) operating within prescribed policy and performance guidelines. To achieve the environment for such an approach, a number of principles need to be accepted by government, industry, and other users:

II. Key Management Infrastructure

In a key management infrastructure (KMI) based on public key cryptography, each user has one or more pairs of public and private keys. The public and private keys differ in such a way that it is computationally infeasible to determine the private key from the public key. This allows the public key to be revealed without endangering the security of the private key. Users can communicate securely without having to share a "secret"; they only need to know each other's public key and that each public key is certified by a trusted authority. Without assurance on the "binding" of a user to a specific public key, these keys have little or no value.

Public Key Cryptography supports security services such as authentication, confidentiality, data integrity, and nonrepudiation. Access to a user's encrypted data for which the key is lost is a security related service referred to as data recovery. Providing a secure and trusted means of storing private keys within the Key Management Infrastructure is one means of providing data recovery. This capability naturally supports law enforcement access, under legal warrants. Thus the user desire for data recovery and law enforcement's potential need for access can be accommodated in a single locale, so long as the user trusts the key storage and law enforcement has confidentiality of access./2/


The simplest model for a KMI meets government access requirements by relying on the certificate authorities (CAs). However, the hierarchy could be structured to include a separate Escrow Authority (EA) to provide law enforcement access. Provision for split keys to enhance personal privacy and security can be incorporated into the KMI. Either of these mechanisms lessens the burden of key escrow on users and on the producers of security products.

To participate in the network a user needs a public key certificate signed by a CA which "binds" the user's identity to their public key. One condition of obtaining a certificate is that sufficient information (e.g., private keys or other information as appropriate) has been escrowed with a certified escrow authority to allow access to a user's data or communications./3/ (As noted before, this might be the CA or an independent escrow authority). The certificate creation process is pictured above.

For users to have confidence in the KMI, CAs must meet minimum standards for security, performance, and liability. A Policy Approving Authority (PAA) certifies CAs for operation. The PAA sets rules and responsibilities for ensuring the integrity of the CAs. The PAA is also responsible for setting CA performance criteria to meet law enforcement's needs.

If law enforcement has obtained legal authority to access a user's encrypted data or communications, it would certify that authorization to the escrow authority. The escrow authority will then relinquish information sufficient to access the user's communication.

III. Some Issues

Difficult issues include i) how to refine the application of export controls, ii) whether and to what extent to permit self-escrow, iii) whether legislation is required and, if so, what it should accomplish, and iv) the certainty and extent that government- to- government agreements can be established to ensure timely law enforcement access to keys/ information held by a foreign country. This section of the White Paper briefly explores each.

Export Controls

The most contentious issue surrounding encryption is export control policy. Encryption exports are controlled to all destinations in the interest of U.S. national security/ foreign policy under the Arms Export Control Act. These export controls are often criticized as an impediment to the fielding of interoperable security across the GII and the competitiveness of U.S. industry. The government is mindful of these criticisms and has initiated a number of reforms to ease the impact export controls have on manufacturers and users of encryption. The task, then, is to find a method of applying export controls that meets the interest of national security, public safety, privacy, and competitiveness.

Freedom to choose any mutually trusted certificate authority may accommodate the above interests./4/ In addition, allowing ready export of products of any bit length to markets where the key management infrastructure, which complies with statutory constraints, is in place to permit government access to keys, would provide both a level market for U.S. manufacturers and higher quality security products for users. Products that meet defined performance requirements and which will not operate until the key is escrowed with an appropriate certificate authority will address commercial, public safety and national security needs. Some law enforcement and national security concerns would be protected since government agencies would be able to obtain escrowed keys pursuant to government-to-government agreements.


We are working toward a policy that permits ready licensing of key recovery encryption systems regardless of algorithm, bit length, or whether implemented in hardware or software, once needed infrastructure and government-to-government agreements are in place. In the interim we recognize that the policy must make it worthwhile for manufacturers and users to invest in escrowed KMI. With these objectives in mind, and consistent with applicable statutes, the interim policy will consider:

Prior to formal government-to-government agreements:

Prior to multi-national Public Key Infrastructure with Key Recovery:

In any condition:

The proposals for an interim export control policy are founded on the assumption that the products will require the use of an escrowed KMI in a country with which the U.S. has a government-to-government agreement. Note that the contemplated exports are to civil end-users; exports to military end-users will require more extensive product review. The existing policies applicable to unescrowed products provide substantial flexibility and will continue as currently defined throughout the transition period (see Appendix II.) Additional requests for near-term relief will be considered on a case-by-case basis consistent with existing practice.

The interim policy also reflects a judgment that overseas escrow of key will generally be permissible with suitable government-to-government arrangements. There is a concern that U.S. products with keys escrowed in the U.S. will not be salable overseas. Hence, it may be possible to permit overseas escrow in Europe, even before government-to-government arrangements are completed. This exception is possible since the European countries are already moving to implement key escrow systems and we can reasonably expect to enter into law enforcement agreements in the near term. The OECD's goal of negotiating multilateral cryptography guidelines by 31 December 1996 is further evidence of European intent and momentum in infrastructure development.

The interim policy reflects a differentiation between hardware and software products, i.e., hardware products with greater bit lengths are treated more favorably under this policy. Hardware implementations of products permit more confident binding between the encryption and the key management, limiting the risk that the encryption can be easily stripped from the key management and used independently of key recovery. Software does not provide similar protection. This said, the interim policy to permit export of 64 bit software key recovery products would reflect a significant increase over the bit length restrictions applicable to non-key recovery products.


Self-escrow will be a principal concern of many large corporations that want to provide corporate data recovery, protect against loss of proprietary data from use of an outside escrow agent, and simply for reasons of efficiency and cost. Hence self-escrow must be considered as an acceptable option.

Escrow requires less architecture if the CA can be the escrow authority. However, in those cases in which an individual or corporation serves as its own certificate authority, government organizations could be compelled to request escrowed key from the subject of an investigation. The investigation could be compromised under such circumstances. While this risk could be avoided by adding independent escrow authorities as another layer in the PKI, such a solution would be costly and inefficient.

A solution is a national policy which allows CAs for an organization to serve as escrow authorities if they can meet necessary performance requirements. These requirements should be determined by government in consultation with industry and should address timeliness, security, confidentiality of requests for, or release of, keys, and independence of the escrow authority from the rest of the organization. To this end, the government should seek legislation that would shield organization certificate authorities from internal pressures in the course of law enforcement investigations.


There is some consensus that the ultimate legislative package should include provisions to criminalize the unauthorized disclosure/use of escrowed key, provisions to authorize civil actions by victims against those responsible for the unauthorized disclosure/use of escrowed key, provisions specifying the circumstances in which escrowed key may be requested and released (e.g. death of a family member or employee), and establishing liability protection for certificate authorities who exercise due prudence in the fulfillment of their performance obligations.

Those who endorse a larger government role would seek legislation that would, for example, establish the government as a major participant in the PAA, which would be responsible to establish policies and guidelines governing certificate issuance. In this case, the government would be authorized to assure establishment of standards for the PKI that adequately provide for systems security and law enforcement access. Inasmuch as the integrity and reliability of the whole range of network centered activities, including electronic commerce, will depend on the integrity and reliability of the key management certificate process, there is good reason for government to play a substantial role.

The enabling legislation envisioned here should reflect the stated needs of industry and users. To that end, government must work closely with industry and other affected parties to develop such legislation.

Government to Government Agreements

There is an expressed need by all governments to have access to information affecting their own security or public safety. Inevitably there will be situations in which the U.S. will want access to keys in a foreign country that concern criminal activities in violation of U.S. laws and vice versa. The security and other technical protocols that will serve as the framework of the GII should ensure key recovery is possible in either circumstance. The U.S. government should seek to frame and execute law enforcement agreements that

It should be recognized that no agreement can guarantee access to keys/information held in a foreign country, but established agreements might serve as a framework to request lawful access to keys/information. Such arrangements will be based on the philosophy that authorized government access must be preserved consistent with the legally recognized privacy interests of the citizens of each country.

IV. Actions

Several issues discussed in this paper raise substantial policy questions that will not be easily resolved. The government, however, has an interest in seeing good security products populate the NII and GII as soon as possible.

To demonstrate resolve and good faith, the United States Government should immediately:

1. Collaborate with industry and existing standards groups, to develop Key Management Infrastructure and attendant products performance requirements (with a working draft completed within 6 months);

2. Collaborate with industry on a Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) within government that specifies a suite of algorithms and protocols for encryption, key exchange, and digital signature functions sufficient to protect government information. The resulting FIPS should provide for key recovery operations and should be mandatory for government use.

3. Establish a security management infrastructure for government use which complies with the standards developed jointly by industry and government. This is the first step in providing a market for industry products which support the new FIPS.

4. Determine an appropriate government agency to work with industry in specifying security requirements for products used in network security applications for protecting highly sensitive information.

5. Collaborate with industry to formulate legislation to establish viable key management infrastructure. Such legislation would, inter alia, set policies for assuring the integrity of escrowed key, establish an appropriate government role in this PAA, and address civil liability issues.

6) Negotiate with other governments arrangements for access to escrowed keys consistent with national sovereignty, national security and public safety.

As trusted partners, industry and government can share expertise and tackle intractable problems such as the insecure operating system. In times past, the cryptographic algorithm was the core of the solution: now it is the easy part. The debate over algorithms and bit lengths should end: it is time for industry and governments to work together to secure the GII in such a way that does not put the world at risk.

/1 The escrow agency must meet performance requirements for law enforcement access.

/2/ For a survey of escrow mechanisms see Dorothy Denning's article in the March 1996 Journal of Communications of the ACM. More in-depth articles on solutions to escrow can be found in Building Big Brother a collection of papers edited by Professor Lance Hoffman that contains both technical and political responses to Clipper/Capstone.

/3/ This applies only to keys used for confidentiality purposes and not keys used for signing purposes.

/4/ A mutually trusted authority is an escrow agent trusted by users to store keys and trusted by law enforcement to provide access on certificate of legal authority.

Appendix I: One View of a KMI

The discussion given here is intended to provide a description of how a KMI might be designed and operated consistent with the tenets of the White Paper. This description is not intended to preclude consideration of other, equally suitable, implementations.

Introduction to KMI Based Escrow

In a KMI based on public key cryptography, each user has one or more pairs of public and private keys. The public and private keys differ in such a way that it is computationally infeasible to determine the private key from the public key. This allows the public key to be revealed without endangering the security of the private key. Users can communicate securely without having to share a "secret", they only need to know each other's public key. In practice, users may have multiple public/private key pairs.

The key pairs may be used in applications such as key exchanges and digital signatures. To make use of such applications, a user's public keys must be available to intended recipients in a manner that the recipient can confidently associate the user with his/her public key. Without assurances on the "binding" of user identities to a specific public key, these keys have little or no value.

Thus, in the context of public key cryptography, the strength of cryptographic mechanisms relates to protecting the confidentiality of the private keys and the integrity of the public keys. Ultimately, the viability of public key cryptographic applications is dependent on the evolution of a key management infrastructure.

KMI and Certificates

The KMI supports the integrity of public keys through the generation and distribution of public key certificates. The role of a certificate is to cryptographically bind a specific user indentity with a public key and other security related information. A trusted sytem entity, generally called a Certificate Authority (CA), obtains information from an individual sufficient to verify the individual is who he says he is. The CA then generates and digitally signs a certificate specific to that individual using the CA's private signature key. Any system user can then validate the contents of that certificate by verifying the CA's digital signature (via the CA's public signature key).

Certificate contents must be bound together by a mechanism which can be authenticated. The certificate format commonly used is based on the structure defined by the CCITT X.509 Recommendation. This has worldwide support in industry and governments.

The concept of a CA can be easily extended to apply to a large system of users where a single CA is not feasible. Providing interoperability within a system containing multiple CAs leads to a hierarchical structure. At the very top of the hierarchy is a Root entity which is often referred to as a Policy Approving Authority (PAA). The PAA represents the single node in the hierarchy that all system users trust. The PAA creates the overall guidelines and policies for the operation of the KMI. The PAA exists to ensure the security and integrity of each and every entity within the hierarchy. Security and integrity are enforced by PAA certifying the public keys of subordinate CAs. Each of these subordinate CAs may also certify the public keys of other CAs or users. A sample hierarchy is pictured below. The PAA public signature key is possessed by all those in the hierarchy.


Any two users within a defined hierarchy can validate each other's public key certificates through a common certification path. A certification path is an ordered sequence of certificates between the entity to be validated and the trusted point in the hierarchy, i.e., PAA. This defines a path of trust. Validation of any system certificate requires that each certificate in the certification path be checked by verifying the digital signature over each certificate.

To maintain trust in the path, the entities making up certificate authorities must follow prescribed rules for identifying users, issuing certificates, and protecting keys. Adherence to these regulations can be enforced by a PAA or as a condition of cross certification between two Certificate Authorities.

After a CA generates a certificate, it is transferred to the user along with the certificates in the user's certification path. Distribution of certificates among system entities can be accomplished by sending them via e-mail (quickly becomes unwieldy) or through the use of a Directory System. Other users can then request and retrieve certificates directly from a Directory Server.

The hierarchical structure is designed to support multiple communities of users who may need to communicate with each other. It is also possible that some communities of users in the system could remain autnomous and yet still be able to communicate with users outside their immediate community of interest. The PAA provides the means for such inter-community communication by functioning as the single mutually trusted authority for the entire hierarchy.

Cross Certification

There could exist one or more PAAs within the U.S. and non-U.S. KMIs. To permit communication between users of different PAA domains, a common certification path must exist. Cross certification will be based on the existence of accepted policies and standard certification criteria. PAAs from each KMI could then cross certify each other. This is accomplished by each PAA countersigning the registered public key certificates of the other. This cross certifying of certificates provides a valid certification path for all users in the respective KMIs.


This scenario permits specific entities under one PAA to have a verifiable certification path for communications with entities serviced by another PAA. It is important to note, however, that the integrity of this cross certification system is only assured by limiting cross certification to bilateral nad direct connection between the two PAAs involved. One PAA should not rely on the representation of another that a third PAA has been authenticated.

Key Recovery Performance Criteria

Key recovery provides for backup storage of a user's private keys. This backup capability helps ensure the availability of a user's data even after it has been encrypted. It also provides for an effective means for law enforcement access. Key recovery requirements whould be viewed from the perspective of the individual, the corporation, or governments that require access. Most of the criteria to be discussed have a dimension for key recovery on an individual basis as well as from a corporate or government perspective. The criteria can be grouped into three categories.

1. Key Integrity:

2. Key Accessibility:

3. Key Recovery Use:

Key Recovery Using KMI


Key recovery fits well within a public key KMI. Interleaving key recovery within the KMI provides for a concentration of trust that stands to benefit the individuals from a confidentiality of private key aspect and facilitates government access by limiting the number of access points. The most simple model is to rely on the existing CAs within the KMI to meet goverment access requiements. If necessary, however, the hierarchy can be structured to include an Escrow Authority (EA) as a separate trusted entity.

EA hierarchy is intrinsically shallow when compared with the depth of the CA hierarchy. The structure is more likened to a peer group of EAs that all fall under the jurisdiction of the KMIs PAA which creates guidelines and policies for EA operation. To become a system endorsed EA entity, an EA must be certified by the PAA. Certification encompasses satisfactory implementation of the standards and policies put forth by the PAA. The PAA provides the standardization for the escrow functions to occur across multiple EA entities with an equivalent degree of trust. It is important to stress that some or all of the elements of the escrow infrastructure may be the same as those in the certificate infrastructure. The KMI supports both.

As with the certification of subordinate CAs, the recognition of a certified status for a particular EA is embodied by the PAAs digital signature on the public key certificate of the EA (thus attesting to the validity of the service they provide). This allows a particular EA to have a system-wide recognized signature, one that is traceable back to a common trusted entity, the PAA.

Two examples follow that show how the EA and CA entities work in tandem to provide both a certificate and data recovery service for users and law enforcement:

1. Certificate and Recovery Registration.

To more fully reflect the Key Integrity Criteria, the EA entity could in fact be a set of EAs that work in conjunction with a particular CA. Providing multiple EAs allows for increased flexibility with respect to the generation, storage, and recovery of key information. Not only would users have increased flexibility of choice in selecting a certified EA, but they essentially have a voice in who is entrusted with protecting their keys. Specifically, the EA entity could be a set of EAs, each of which only possesses a portion (key split) fo User A's private key component. This provides a recovery mechanism for User A that more directly protects his private key component since recovery of the key by other than authorized requests would require collusion on the part of all EAs, compromise of all EA storage mechanisms, or compromise of all of the distribution paths used during recovery from each EA to User A)

2. User Key Recovery: An Archiving Example

3. Law Enforcement Key Recovery: An e-mail Example

Law enforcement will destroy keys at the end of the authorized period of use. Access can be also be time bounded directly by users by repeating the registration process.

Appendix II: Current Encryption Export Policies

This appendix has been prepared to state clearly the existing encryption export control policies and procedures.

While the government recognizes that further progress is needed in license processing, changes instituted to date have resulted in a reduction of average license turnaround time of 39 days in 1993 to an average of 13 days in 1995. Further, over 99% of export licenses for proposed cryptographic products are approved each year.


The export of cryptographic products is regulated by the Department of State pursuant to the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and its implementing International Traffic In Arms Regulations (ITAR), and by the Department of Commerce pursuant to the Export Administration Act (EAA) and its implementing Export Administration Regulations (EAR).

No license is required for the import of cryptographic hardware or software. There are no federal laws regulating the use of cryptographic products within the United States. A license is required for the export of cryptographic products to all destinations except Canada. Applications are reviewed by the Department of Defense (NSA) for national security implications and by State for foreign policy concerns. The export licensing policy is consistent with U.S. national security and foreign policy.

The Department of Commerce controls the export of rudimentary cryptographic products containing cryptographic functions generally limited to purposes such as data authentication, password protection, and access control. Products which are determined to be covered by the Commerce Control List (CCL), with certain foreign policy exceptions, may be exported under a General License.


(Thanks to Pat Farrell, who made the appendices available in digital form)

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