An EU report has recommended using strong encryption to ward off US cyberespionage.
The report, commissioned by the European Parliament's research arm and a working document of its Scientific and Technological Options Assessment programme, was written by investigative journalist Duncan Campbell. It was published last week and can be found atiptvreports.
Campbell's report found that European nations' policies requiring that EU government hold a copy of each user's encryption keys - known as "key escrow" - resulted from diplomatic pressure by the US government - which was acting on behalf of the National Security Agency.
That agency is the White House linked intelligence network that functions parallel to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency, the Justice Department's Federal Bureau of Investigation and other covert agencies tied to the US government.
Disguised as a measure to aid law enforcement agencies in the pursuit of online criminals, the key escrow requirement was in fact a means of ensuring that the NSA could intercept and decipher messages sent by European governments, companies and citizens.
The report goes further, citing, "wide ranging evidence indicating that major governments are routinely utilising communications intelligence to provide commercial advantage to companies and trade."
Campbell gave examples of a range of cases where the US government has intercepted sensitive information and used it to benefit US companies.
Yaman Akdeniz, the head of Cyber Liberties and Cyber Rights UK, said the report highlighted the need to use strong encryption on a wide scale.
"The use of encryption would be a strong tool against industrial espionage," he said.
He warned that technical barriers would necessitate an investment in staff training and that companies should take special care to secure key recovery systems.
He was optimistic, however, that companies would realise the importance of encryption: "I am sure that, when there is a regulatory framework (especially for digital signatures), encryption technologies will be more widely used. The current global policy disorder holds back not only the development of ecommerce but the wide use of [encryption] for securing electronic communications."
Campbell's report also reveals the back doors of Web browsers and popular email programs.
For more stories see this week's issue of PC Week UK
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