My Calculus professor always says, “If you’re trying to dig a small hole in your backyard, you don’t bring in a bulldozer. It’s costly and it’s inefficient. You just take out a shovel and get the job done.” What she basically means is that if you have a small task, you use small tools, and if you have a big task, you use big tools. The same applies to the commercial use of cryptography.
In the 1970’s, businesses were looking for a secure method of encryption that they could rely on to communicate confidentially with one another (Singh 248). Lucifer, which was generally regarded as one of the strongest commercially available encryption systems, was a candidate for the standard (Singh 249). Before Lucifer was officially adopted as the Data Encryption Standard, the NSA limited the number of possible keys, just to the point that no civilian computer could feasibly crack the encryption (Singh 250). This provided businesses with just the right amount of security they needed to conduct their communications.
There are two other reasons that justify the NSA’s actions. The first is that a country’s security agency should have the strongest available encryption system and limiting the number of keys available to the public enabled it to do so. The second is that public use of this system would compromise the NSA’s operations. For example, if businesses were using an unlimited Lucifer system, then it would be in the interest of many individuals and organizations to crack the encryption system. However, if the NSA were the only body using the encryption system, then less people would be interested in cracking it, thus providing the NSA with more security.