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Clipper Chip

[′klip·ər ‚chip]
(computer science)
A chip proposed by the United States government to be used in all devices that might use encryption, such as computers and communications devices, for which the government would have at least some access or control over the decryption key for purposes of surveillance.


A cryptography chip used by the U.S. government for telephone security that used the SkipJack algorithm and provided for key escrow. The federal government tried to make CLIPPER a universal method, because it alone could unscramble the data if required using independently-stored fragments of the Law-Enforcement Access Field (LEAF), which could be reassembled into a decryption key. The CLIPPER chip also included the CAPSTONE chip, which provided the actual cryptographic processing.

The proposal failed because of widespread rejection by the cryptographic community, which pointed out that nothing would preclude encrypting telephone transmissions with some other method before using a CLIPPER-chip equipped telephone unit. See Skipjack algorithm.
References in periodicals archive ?
Through CESA, the government renewed its support for key escrow and governmental access to decryption keys, the policy heavily criticized when embodied in the Clipper Chip.
In 1994, not long after the Senate hearings to approve of the Clipper Chip, a research scientist named Matthew Blaze, who worked in the small crypto group at AT&T's research facility, found a technical flaw in the program.
4, 1994) (setting forth key release procedures announced the year after Clipper Chip was unveiled).
Even if every phone had Clipper, one could still encrypt the conversations that the Clipper Chip would then encrypt again--double encryption, that is.
Government sales may permits-sought after economies of scale for the Clipper chip, but the ferocity of private opposition dims the prospects of the Clipper chip coming into widespread commercial use.
Because the Clipper Chip and Capstone algorithms do not comply with existing international standards, there are concerns that the added investment in hardware and personnel could make the technology unduly expensive to implement.
The Clipper and Capstone chips also represent only one possible approach to achieving a reasonable balance between unconstrained privacy and the needs of law enforcement and national security, Silvio Micali of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has proposed an alternative scheme - developed well before the Clipper chip announcement - that eschews complicated chips and special hardware in favor of a considerably more flexible, inexpensive software solution.
The government's Clipper Chip was criticized, in part, for using a classified algorithm (Skipjack).
During the 1990S the federal government tried to push the Clipper Chip, prosecute Phil Zimmermann for distributing homegrown cryptography, and mandate weaker software security.
IW examines the political controversy surrounding the government's Clipper chip initiative, with Internet pioneers Steve Crocker and Steve Walker -- vice president and president, respectively, of Trusted Information Systems -- offering an inside perspective of Clipper, CyberCash, Internet security, and their Clipper alternative.
even wanted to bring back the Clipper Chip," an anti-encryption standard that would have let the feds read any e-mail and snoop on other scrambled communications.
Key escrow continues to be a volatile issue; 68% indicated they wouldn't use government key escrow (the Clipper chip controversy) and 54% responded negatively to using commercial key escrow.