Germany: Federal Government Remarks Concerning Encryption

Last Updated: 18 May 1998
This is taken from Christopher Kuner's homepage Click Contact Link where there are further articles regarding the Law of Electronic and Internet Commerce In Germany.

Federal Government Remarks Concerning Encryption (Response to Questions of the Parliamentary Representative Dr. Manuel Kiper and of the Parliamentary Fraction of Bundnis 90/Die Grunen)

Translation by Click Contact Link

March, 1996

Security in Information Technology and Encryption

BT-Drucksache No. 13/3932

Preliminary Remarks of the Federal Government:

The Federal Government has already promoted the development of secure cryptographic processes for governmental purposes since the 1950s with considerable resources. The results thereof have, in the interim, already to a large extent flowed into civil uses.

Secure cryptographic processes for the purpose of:

  • Digital Signatures (Electronic Signatures),
  • Identifications/Authentifications and Access Control (e.g., as a "Digital Identification Card" in networks), and
  • Encryption constitute the basic requirement for effective data security and effective data protection in the use of information technology in world-wide networks. The new technology therefore does exist.

The Federal Government is presently examining the extent to which in the future an electronic document with an electronic signature should be legally equated with a written document with a hand-written signature.

Otherwise reference is made to BT-Drucksache 13/1889.

1. Are there official contacts between employees of the Bundesamt fur Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik (BSI) and employees of the National Security Agency (NSA)? If yes, in what bodies, for what purpose, and when and on which occasion did the last such meeting take place?

2. Which official contacts where there between the NSA and employees of the former Zentralstelle für das Chiffrierwesen (ZfCh), and to what extent are these maintained today by the BSI?

Like the BSI and the agencies which were its predecessors, the NSA is responsible for development and approval of encryption systems with regard to state secrets. There therefore is and was a regular multilateral exchange of views. The last meeting occurred on March 1, 1996 in the scope of co-operation of the BSI with NIST, NSA and the corresponding agencies in Canada, the UK, France, and the Netherlands for further development of the European IT-Security criteria (ITSEC) for "common criteria".

3. With which companies did the ZfCh co-operate with regard to development of encryption technologies and with which ones does the BSI co-operate today?

The ZfCh and the BSI worked and co-operate as a matter of principle with all German encryption manufacturers.

4. Was there or is there also co-operation with various companies and manufacturers of devices and systems for electronic battle management (Elektronische Kampffuhrung)? If yes, for what purpose?

Yes, the co-operation for the most part furthers the development of cryptographic devices for the protection of state secrets.

5. Is it true that a new, more powerful mainframe computer is to be obtained for the BSI? If yes, for what purpose is this computer required?

Yes. It is to further the development and examination of cryptographic algorithms (e.g. for encryption of digital signatures).

6. To what extent is the export of encryption systems in the Federal Government of Germany subject to export restrictions and to what extent does the BSI take part in the granting of export licences or did the former ZfCh take part therein?

In Germany encryption systems are, just as in other member states of the EU, subject largely to a duty to obtain export permits because they can be used for dual purposes. The corresponding equipment, components, parts, major examination, test, and manufacturing components, computer programmes and technology are listed individually in the export list (Appendix to the Aussenwirtschaftsverordnung) in Part 1 C, paragraph 5 part 2 "Information Security". The approving agency is directed (with few exceptions, for example with regard to ATM machines) to present all applications for such export permits to the BSI for professional examination. Such examination was earlier carried out by the ZfCh.

7. Does the Federal Government intend to introduce regulatory changes regarding the granting of export licences?

The German export control system was changed both in its legal norms and also administratively in conjunction with the harmonisation by the EU ordinance concerning export control of goods with dual uses, which entered into force on July 1, 1995. Further changes may be necessary owing to agreements on an international level. At the present no concrete changes are being planned.

8. Does the Federal Government know of influence by agencies responsible for cryptographic matters on the development of cryptographic systems?

The BSI influences the development of encryption systems for protection of state secrets so that these meet the particular security requirements.

9. Does the Federal Government know of influence by the agencies responsible for cryptographic matters on the exportability of cryptographic systems?

With regard to a decision about export licences, in each case different interests must be carefully weighed. In this regard the licensing agency must examine the facts while keeping in mind all interests. At the request of manufacturers, advice in conjunction with the development of the systems may take place, with the goal of fulfilling the legal requirements for the exportability of systems.

10. Is the Federal Government aware of the view of cryptographic experts that certain encryption standards and systems have been watered down by the influence of agencies responsible for cryptography matters, in particular the NSA, and what is its response to this viewpoint?

The restrictive export control policy of the USA with regard to encryption technology is generally known; in its advisory role the BSA is therefore cautious with regard to recommending US products to the public administration and to private German companies.

11. Does the Federal Government know for what reason the International Standards Organisation (ISO) has forbidden its constituent organisations (technical committees) from standardizing cryptographic algorithms? If so, what position did the Federal Government take?

No. In the view of the Federal Government, standardization is a matter for the parties with an economic interest.

12. How does the Federal Government view reports that the software company Lotus had to make available to US agencies 24 of the 64 bits of the cryptographic key in order to obtain an export licence in the US for the new version 4.0 of its product Lotus Notes?

Reference is made to the answer to Question 10.

13. Is this software used by any Federal Agency? If so, by which one?

The Federal Government does not have complete statistical information in this regard, which could also not be obtained by it in the time available for answering a short question.

14. Has the Federal Government made progress regarding advice on the requirements for legal regulation of cryptographic processes since mid-1995? If so, which ones?


15. Does the Federal Government intend, with regard to the announced legal regulations for electronic signatures, which are functionally equivalent to an encryption system, to make such systems subject to licensing? If so, under which criteria is licensing to be done, in particular also in regard to the security of systems?

The Federal Government is presently examining the manner in which an electronic signature (digital signature) may be inserted into the system of written forms of the Civil Code and the evidentiary provisions. In this regard it is also being examined whether possible legal recognition of a system of digital signatures should be made dependant on such procedures corresponding to particular security requirements, and whether the fulfilment of such security requirements should be examined and confirmed according to public criteria by the BSI or by an instance approved by the BSI.

16. In this regard, what model of key management does the Federal Government intend?

No decision has been made for a specific model. It would for example be conceivable that notarisation (certification) of the signature keys should be made by approved certification authorities in free competition. It could be a requirement for admission of a certification authority that it demonstrates the necessary reliability and has manifestly taken certain technical and organisational security measures.

17. Does the Federal Government intend a limitation on key length with regard to such systems?


18. Does the Federal Government consider it necessary to limit or forbid the use of certain encryption systems?

19. In the Federal Government's view, how realistic is it to suppose that encryption systems will be limited to a few secure ones which would ensure wiretapping possibilities for security services and law enforcement?

With regard to numbers 18 and 19, the Federal Government is examining the requirement of legal regulation for the use of encryption systems. This examination has not yet been completed.

20. In the Federal Government's view, how do its plans to regulate electronic signatures fit with the plans both on the EU-level and the different plans regarding cryptography on the level of the OECD, and does the Federal Government foresee problems with reaching agreement?

Developments in European and international bodies have not been completed, so that it is too early to evaluate the differing plans.

21. How does the Federal Government evaluate the position of the US Government to influence export and use of asymmetric cryptographic systems which ensure that law enforcement and security services may decrypt both messages being received and messages being sent in certain cases?

The Federal Government is currently examining the effects that the view of the US Government has on the international flow of goods and services, and what conclusions can be drawn therefrom for the policy of the Federal Government.

22. Which ministries, agencies, and federal offices are presently accessible by Internet, how are such systems connected with further computer systems of the respective bodies and how is security and integrity of such systems assured?

The Federal Government does not have complete statistical information on this point and cannot produce it by the time limit for answering a parliamentary question.

Insofar as computers are connected to the Internet, they have either no connection to the further computer systems of the respective bodies, or have one which is realised over gateways.

Accessibility, confidentiality, and integrity of computers connected to the Internet and local networks, and of data which are processed there, are insured by one of the following measures:

  • Single workstations are used which are not networked with other local computers.
  • The accessibility over the Internet is limited to just a few services (in particular the electronic exchange of documents), in which case the gateway computers only accept the protocol for the admitted service or services.
  • In the future firewalls will increasingly be used.

23. Between which agencies does an exchange of data take place and how is this secured? To what extent has the BSI developed security concepts in this regard?

Exchange of data takes place between those agencies whose legal duties require co-operation. The requirements of accessibility, confidentiality and integrity vary quite a bit. Therefore, the necessary security measures are also different. The Federal Agencies use IT security concepts in which the IT processes are examined and the respective security measures are put forth. The BSI has developed security concepts both for securing confidentiality during data exchange between agencies and for securing Internet access.

24. Has the Bundesrechnungshof performed security analyses in relation to such an exchange of data and what conclusion did it come to?

Various security analyses were carried out with different results.

25. Has a Ministry, an agency, or an office within the responsibility of the Federal Government ever been the victim of a "hacker"? If so, which agency was involved, was the attacker identified, were proceedings initiated and to what result did they come? Moreover, was data manipulated or destroyed?

The Federal Government does not know of any verifiable instance in which hackers gained entrance to the places referred to.

26. Does the Federal Government know of the American software "PROMIS" (Prosecutors' Management System), and is it being used? If so, for what purpose and by what agency?


27. Does the Federal Government have guidelines for the acquisition of software which also take into account IT security aspects?

Yes, according to the specific area.

28. Are there areas in which only software which has been examined for security is used? If so, which?


29. Has the Federal Government ever had knowledge in any federal agency of a software product which demonstrated an unexplained security lapse or "security trapdoor"? If so, which software was involved?


30. Based on the BSI's knowledge, may such security lapses be detected systematically without knowledge of the source code? If so, at what expense?

To detect such security lapses inspection of significant parts of the source code is necessary; however, this alone is not sufficient. Many security lapses can only be detected in the so-called object code; compilers and libraries of the programming language used must also be examined. If one only works on the basis of simple tests, more random indications will occur. In the best case a security lapse may be confirmed or denied; however the absence of security lapses may only be ascertained by comprehensive analysis of the source and object code. For this purpose the use of certain examination tools is necessary.

31. Based on the Federal Government's knowledge, is it true that German "hackers" who in the 1980s gained access to certain computers systems in the USA used a security lapse in the VAX\VMS operating systems, versions 4.4 and 4.5?

To the Federal Government's knowledge, there was a security lapse in version 4.4 of the VAX\VMS in the area of "security service", so that unauthorised users could make use of it.

Visit Christopher Kuner's homepage Click Contact Link for more articles regarding the Law of Electronic and Internet Commerce In Germany.

For further information, please contact

Christopher Kuner/Markus Deutsch
Gleiss Lutz Hootz Hirsch Rechtsanwalte
Gartnerweg 2, 60322 Frankfurt/Main
Fax No: ++49/69/95514-198
Tel No: ++49/69/95514-106
E-mail:  Click Contact Link  or
         Click Contact Link 

The article is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of publication. However, the legal situation at the administrative practice of the Regulatory Authority may be subject to changes. Therefore, the article is only a general guide. Specialist advise has to be sought as regards your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions