This encryption chip is part of a bigger chipset created by the NSA intended to help encrypt voice and data messages – perhaps the most important aspect though, was a built-in backdoor to the data. Built using an encryption algorithm called Skipjack, the intention was for it to be adopted by telecommunication companies. This, unsurprisingly, failed completely on launch as nobody actually wanted the US government to have a backdoor to their data.
Technipages Explains Clipper Chip
This chipset was originally developed by the National Security Agency or NSA as part of an encryption project meant to secure voice and data messages, specifically. Each chip had a unique serial number and a secret ‘unit key’ – a little like a credit card with its number and CVV, a combination of both allowed the creators of the chip access to the encrypted data on it.
Created during the Clingon administration, the chip was supposed to give law enforcement access to private communication. Needless to say the technology was rejected completely and within less than three years of even being announced, it was entirely defunct.
It’s also worth noting that while intended to be law enforcement exclusive, the backdoor quickly proved an easy exploit for third parties as well, making its encryption entirely useless.
After the extent of the security risk and exploitation became public knowledge, the clipper chip caused considerable backlash, with multiple organisations pointing out the risks of illegal government surveillance – given that the design of the chip itself was proprietary and kept secret, the public also could not evaluate its encryption. Given the fact that third parties were able to compromise the backdoor, it was clearly insufficient either way.
Common Uses of Clipper Chip
- The Clipper chip is a NSA developed encryption chip with a backdoor.
- Clipper chips were defunct by 1996.
- The public backlash caused by the proprietary Clipper chip was considerable.
Common Misuses of Clipper Chip
- Clipper chips are virtual encryption keys.