L0PHT ON ENCRYPTION
L0PHT--hackerish spelling for loft--is a sort of hackers' workshop. In Boston, seven men regularly meet in a space they've rented to work on various projects. NewsHour Correspondent Tom Bearden recently spoke with the members of L0PHT about the encryption debate. The names used by L0pht members during the interview are meant to protect their identities.
TOM BEARDEN: Let's talk about encryption, the government's policy on encryption. What's your view of it, and what do you think is wrong with their policy...
Critiquing government policy.KINGPIN: ... The thing is that (with) a lot of the large criminal enterprises and organized crime, it doesn't matter what the government says. They're gong to use encryption and they're going to find ways to get around (the law) ... SPACE ROGUE: It goes back to the old phrase if you outlaw encryption, only outlaws will have encryption. ... TOM BEARDEN: Actually, I was thinking more in terms of philosophy. Is your view of what the computing world ought to be one of personal freedom as opposed to a regulated kind of an environment? Is that something that you're -- I hesitate to use the word politically committed to because that's not really what I mean, but you may follow me what I'm saying here, that this is something that ought to be completely free to everybody. MUDGE: You have a situation where this inter-networking stuff grew out of, (was) largely educational ... And now I think more than anything it's big businesses coming in. Big business sees, you know, the potential for big dollars, and so they want a controlling interest in it. And one of the only ways they're really going to get controlling interest in it is if they have government support in some sort of regulation... Should it be free, and should it be wild and crazy and, you know, everybody be completely Abby Hoffman-Jerry Rubenesque running around? I mean, I'd like to see it that way, but it's not going to be that way. I mean, business has already stepped in.
An "entrepreneurial environment."WELD POND: ... It's a very entrepreneurial environment. And security and encryption is all part of that because if someone in Russia is going to talk to me, they want to be pretty sure if we're collaborating on a business idea or building products together, we don't want anyone else to know about it. So in order for this to really flourish as an entrepreneurial, collaborative medium, it has to be absolutely secure and that's across international boundaries. I'm talking with people from Bulgaria and people from Russia all the time who have actually sent me source code to work with in ... some of the programs we're building. Of course, the government is listening in. They're saying oh, this Weld guy, he's exchanging source code with this guy from Bulgaria. I don't really like that, that they're seeing this, you know. I should be able to exchange source code with these guys. They built it themselves. I want to work on this, you know. And who is to say that people who sort of have tight ties with the government, maybe some of the utility companies or someone else that I'm competing with ... who is to say that these people don't exchange information? I certainly don't have tight ties with the government. I think the government definitely favors certain vendors over other ones, you know, especially in the defense industry. I want to be able to have a fair shake, and if these guys are spying on what I'm doing, I think the industrial and economic espionage is more real than a lot of people know about. SPACE ROGUE: Another aspect is the net is a global medium. It spans the entire globe. ... There are no boundaries at all. And if the U.S. government starts trying to control their small little section of it, which is actually quite big compared to the rest of the world, it's going to upset everybody else. I think France just recently came out and said we don't like the U.S. controls, and we don't want encryption and whatnot, and that's probably not a good thing to do because then you start losing your foreign relations and whatnot like that.
"Dumbing down" technology.WELD POND: I've actually talked to people in Europe who are totally offended by the fact that the U.S. government says okay, you guys, dumb down your products, dumb down your Web servers and your Web browsers and your mail products and sell those to the ones in Europe so your government can listen in on our communications. I mean, there's no surprise that the NSA has listening posts with their echelon system all throughout Europe and Great Britain especially, and there's no surprise that if they're using weak crypto, the U.S. is controlling the market, and we're exporting weak crypto to Europe, that basically we're saying well, we want to listen in on you guys. We're only going to let you guys buy the products that we can listen in on. It's as simple as that. And that's the message that corporations and individual people in foreign countries get from our government.