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News Release


Release No: 120-97
March 14, 1997


Deputy Secretary of Defense John P. White has approved changes in the Department of Defense's encryption policy for computer products.

This decision aligns the FORTEZZA card, a low cost cryptographic token for digital signature and encryption services at the desktop, and its associated public key infrastructure with the Clinton Administration's October 1996 policy promoting key recovery.

As outlined in the Administration policy, key recovery relies on trusted parties to verify digital signatures and also hold spare keys to confidential data. Those keys could be obtained only by persons or entities that have lost the key to their own encrypted data, or by law enforcement officials acting under proper authority. It is analogous to asking one's neighbors to safeguard house keys. This policy adopts a market- driven approach to promoting global key recovery with industry.

Originally the FORTEZZA crypto card implemented the key escrow mechanism outlined in Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS)-185. Key escrow called for government agencies, rather than private parties, to hold the key data.

The National Security Agency, the developer of the FORTEZZA card, will no longer implement the FIPS and will implement the transition to key recovery with the upcoming large volume deliveries of cards for the Defense Message System. Such deliveries are expected in April.

Pending availability of commercial products which support the global key recovery infrastructure sought by the Administration's new policy, the existing FORTEZZA infrastructure will provide an interim capability for addressing key recovery. Concurrently, the Administration is continuing to work in cooperation with industry and foreign governments on the development and deployment of a global key recovery standard.

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