The UK government is backing policies that will hamper Cambridge University backed proposals for a next generation security standard, say encryption experts.
The Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) is key to the growth of ecommerce as the US Government plans to use it to replace the ageing Data Encryption Standard (DES) and business is likely to follow suit.
AES will be a 128bit algorithm, compared with DES's 56bit key length, making it more secure.
Brian Gladman, technical advisor to the Foundation for Information Policy Research, said the government was attempting to control cryptography throughout Europe. It plans to extend controls to prevent AES developers sending emails or even talking about their algorithms and projects. It has already failed with similar policies in Westminster, but is pushing these in Europe.
"It appears that the prospect of direct UK legislation on intangible exports [covering goods such as software] has now receded, only to be replaced by similar plans for European Community legislation," Gladman said.
Nigel Hickson, of the DTI's Information Security Policy Group, disagreed: "It is not the UK pushing the intangible stuff through the EU machinery; in fact we are still arguing for exemptions, such as telephone conversations. The previous presidency were the keen ones."
Among the five finalists for the AES is Serpent, developed in a European academic collaboration that includes Ross Anderson at Cambridge University. Anderson is unimpressed by the government proposals.
"Under the export controls on intangibles, which the DTI is currently trying to have adopted as an EU regulation - I would need a personal export licence from the DTI," he said.
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