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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.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


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.
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References in periodicals archive ?
Meanwhile the Clipper chip projects quietly disappeared from public view (Diffie & Landau, 2007).
Similarly, while the Clinton Administration once strongly advocated mandatory key escrow, it was forced to back away from this stance, possibly because of the negative reaction to Clipper Chip. See infra Part III.B.1.
The United States government's regulation of the Clipper Chip would allow two government agencies the ability to decode any forms of communication that seemed questionable to national security.(131) Essentially, if Clipper or some international standard of cryptography were available, it would allow users to further safeguard their programs.
But the Clinton administration followed through in adopting Clipper chip encryption despite an outcry against "Big Brother" politics.
EPIC, "The Clipper Chip," http//
Not only did the industry reject the Clipper Chip, but the government was unable to prevent private computer programmers from developing and illegally distributing their own encryption systems that the government supposedly could not crack or systems (such as SATAN) that can detect "back doors." The lesson of the Clipper Chip is that DOD must use a more sophisticated, less heavy-handed approach to get the civilian sector to take measures to protect itself against the IW threat.
If every telephone in America had a Clipper Chip on it as of tomorrow, there can be no doubt that net privacy in America would increase.
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.
with the "Escrowed Encryption System," better known as the Clipper Chip. The Clipper Chip contains a classified encryption algorithm, code-named SKIPJACK, etched into its silicon.
Last spring, the Clinton administration pressured companies to use the "Clipper chip," an encrypting microchip with passwords known to the government.
This technology improves "the security and privacy of telephone communications while meeting the legitimate needs of law enforcement:' the White House stated in announcing the Clipper chip.