1. A type of sailing ship
2. An encription system promoted by the US government with built-in back door
3. DOS database program compiler, based heavily on DBase III, but with loads of extra useful features. Originally written by Nantucket, who were later taken over by CA.
The UK equivalent of the US zippo lighter not because of its functionality or looks but in its mass distribution. We're talking about every smoker or pyromanic's owned last least one before. It has a detachable flint mechanism that can be used to push down the tobacco when making a joint.

"Friends don't let friends make badly constructed joints. Use your flint responsibly."

2002.04.17 at 13:40 - Oolong says re clipper: Do you not get clippers in the states then? I wouldn't have said they were really a close equivalent of zippos, given they're much cheaper and run on different fuel, and tend to get nicked ('clipped') constantly...

The year is 1993, and the National Security Agency is scared.

Two years ago, Philip Zimmerman's PGP software first hit Usenet. Since then, it has become the de facto standard among the paranoid for encryption—an encryption which is effectively unbreakable with today's computers. Although the software is primarily used to encrypt e-mail and other text media, one offshoot of PGP, known as PGPfone, can be used with telephone communications.

This presents a problem for the NSA.

Since the early part of the 20th century, the United States government has been using wiretaps to foil criminals: from catching spies during the Great War to collecting evidence against the Mafia in the 1960s, wiretapping has been regarded by the FBI to be "the single most effective technique used by law enforcement to combat illegal drugs, terrorism, violent crime, espionage, and organized crime."

It is easy, then, to see why the government (the NSA and FBI especially) is a little squeamish to discover PGP circling the globe. Now organized crime, drug dealers, terrorists, and pedophiles—the "Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse"—will be free to go about their criminal activity with impunity, since their voice and e-mail communications are absolutely secure. The government needed an encryption standard to which they would have the unfettered access that they had had before 1991, and they needed it now.

And thus Clipper was born.

Clipper (and its e-mail crypto brother, Capstone) was an exercise in key escrow: whenever a telephone call was made over a telephone with a Clipper chip, the chip would encrypt the data stream with a single-session key. This key would then be "split in half," with each half being sent to a different government agency: in this case, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Department of the Treasury (the agency responsible for maintaining the Secret Service) would be the recipients. If the government could adequately convince these two entities that an individual's phone had been used to commit a crime, then the two halves would be reunited and the calls decrypted. In February 1994, the President officially announced the adoption of Skipjack (the algorithm used for both Clipper and Capstone), and the NSA contracted AT&T to begin producing Clipper-enabled telephones.

So what went wrong? Where are all the Clipper phones?

In May of 1994, Matthew Blaze, a young researcher for Bell Laboratories, decided to respond to the NSA's open call to the crypto community to have a crack at Clipper. His efforts were to be the would-be crypto standard's downfall.

Blaze focused his efforts on a specific part of the Clipper mechanism: the Law Enforcement Access Field (LEAF). The LEAF is critical to the NSA's ability to crack suspicious messages: it contains the encrypted single-session key that is split in two and sent to law enforcement agencies. Blaze was able to modify the LEAF by cracking the 16-bit checksum that protects it—a process that took him less than an hour—and then replacing the legitimate LEAF with gibberish, making the message indecipherable to the government. Blaze hadn't cracked Clipper, but he had rendered it effectively worthless.

With the new standard in tatters, on July 20, 1994, Vice President Gore announced that the government was abandoning Clipper. PGP continued to flourish, used by the honest and wicked alike. And the government's attempts at key escrow fell, at least temporarily, by the wayside.

Sources cited:

Electronic Privacy Information Center. "The Clipper chip." http://www.epic.org/crypto/clipper/ (28 September 2001).
Meeks, Brock N. "Clipping Clipper: Matt Blaze." Wired Sept. 1994: 7.
Singh, Simon. The Code Book. New York: Doubleday, 1999.

Clip"per (?), n.


One who clips; specifically, one who clips off the edges of coin.

<-- sic. coin here is in the plural. -->

The value is pared off from it into the clipper's pocket. Locke.


A machine for clipping hair, esp. the hair of horses.

3. Naut.

A vessel with a sharp bow, built and rigged for fast sailing.

-- Clip"per-built` (), a.

⇒ The name was first borne by "Baltimore clippers" famous as privateers in the early wars of the United States.


© Webster 1913.

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