More of the same please.
Not the usual request of a government, but that’s what US Internet guru Jack Oswald will ask of trade minister John Luxton regarding New Zealand’s encryption software export policy.
Oswald, who used to lead Borland’s Internet strategy team, now is president and CEO of RPK, an Auckland-based encryption software company. He will be visiting the country from his base in California this week to address attendees of the NZSA-sponsored InfoSec security conference in Wellington.
New Zealand is a signatory to the Wassenaar Arrangement, a protocol which designates all encryption software above a certain level as a munition, and restricts its use as such. The US has so far strongly enforced this policy. But this country’s software export stance is not so clear-cut, and the electronic distribution of encryption software is often permitted.
“My understanding is that export by way of electronic means is not regulated in the same way as the traditional approach,” says Oswald. “I think that’s been done intentionally because it is a new medium, it has different needs and requirements.”
He believes adopting the US stance would be counter-productive.
“If New Zealand as a government decided to follow the United States down that [encryption software ban] rat-hole, it would be squandering an opportunity in the marketplace and for leadership that it has today. The US, I think, is making a big mistake in that regard.”
Oswald says he will be telling Luxton that “the status quo is appropriate”.
“Because of the advantages of the RPK technology coming out of New Zealand, as a result we’ve able to make it available globally at high strength. Many of our markets are even stronger outside of the US.” RPK is looking to set up an office in Europe; Oswald may base himself there in the near future. “Our point of view is that I think we’ve done enough in the past two years to prove that RPK is a good technology. From a technical point of view it has some real advantages in performance, especially when you look at custom chip implementations. We have a project in Switzerland where we actually produced some prototypes that show dramatic improvements over alternative technologies like RSA and even elliptic curve systems. And at much lower power consumption cost to produce per unit, whether software or hardware.
“Having proven the value of the technology, one of my intentions in discussions next week is to encourage both government and private industry to rally around the technology, because it is in a way a national treasure of New Zealand. It’s hard to build a good crypto system, and it’s hard to build one that has all the advantages that RPK has. It seems to make sense to use that as a vehicle for promoting the country, the country’s technological advantages. It’s a relatively small economy, but still equally sophisticated. The tele-comms are very good in and out of New Zealand. I believe there’s an opportunity to take a leadership position in electronic commerce, which goes beyond crypto-graphy and a lot of other protocols. There are a lot of skills in the country and a lot of people already well known in the field.”
He says the company would probably be building the company and its technology out of California, except that the US government has made it impossible to do that. He says he “doesn’t expect anything to get any better anytime soon”. Even tighter controls are possible, he says. The company takes the point of view that laws are not likely to stop criminals getting en-cryption systems. “My country has proven that regulation is usually not a good solution to the problem. The logical part of me says it’s impractical and you should try to solve the problem in a way that at least might have a chance of success.”
Luxton is likely to meet Oswald, says a spokeswoman for the minister. She says Luxton is interested in talking about the subject, and the meeting should happen later this week.
For conference details, visit www.nzsa. org.nz; RPK at www.rpk.co.nz.