New export regs governing strong encryption announced

Federal agencies will soon have access to more secure commercial products, following the Clinton administration's release of the final draft of its encryption export regulations on Thursday.

By allowing the export of much stronger encryption software than has been available in the past, the new regulations open the way for more secure commercial software and hardware for federal users, industry sources said.

Although agencies are trying to use more commercial off-the-shelf products, products with high levels of security and encryption have not been available because vendors of popular software applications have been reluctant to release a high-security version for U.S. use and a lower-security version for worldwide use, according to several vendors.

Both industry and Congress will be watching the effectiveness of the new regulations. In fact, several bills supporting the availability of stronger encryption already have been put on hold on Capitol Hill, including the Security and Freedom through Encryption (SAFE) Act.

"Congress will continue to [watch] carefully to make sure that the regulations released today are implemented properly and in a timely manner," said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). "To that end, the House remains ready to take up [the SAFE Act] if the regulations do not allow American companies to fully compete in the global marketplace."

The Commerce Department's Bureau of Export Administration will accept comments on the regulations before issuing the final rule in March.

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