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.

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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.

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