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Illegal Tattoos: RSA Tattoos

For those that aren’t cryptography geeks, the above tattoo is an implementation of RSA encryption and decryption in perl. RSA is a handy way to encrypt something so prying eyes can’t see your porn important free-speech writings. Back in the early 1990’s some cryptography software was illegal to export out of the US due to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). If encryption software used more than 40bits, it was classified as munitions (along with chemical and biological weapons and other military technology). If you were poking around on the web in those days, you might remember Netscape having both a US and an International version of their browser. The US version used 128bits to encrypt SSL transactions (like credit cards) whereas the International version only used 40bits, conforming to the regulations.

Pointing out the obvious ridiculousness of the enforcement of these restrictions, the incredibly short perl code above was passed around, printed on shirts, and tattooed on people. Technically you would be breaking the law if you walked down a US street displaying this code (on a shirt or skin) and a foreign citizen observed it. Pretty crazy, eh?

Luckily these restrictions were declared unconstitutional in 1996, and these tattoos are no longer munitions, but rather reminders of the government overstepping its boundaries.

These tattoos are on the following individuals:
— Richard White has the tattoo on his forearm.
— Cancer Omega has the tattoo on his chest.
— James Melvin has the tattoo on his arm.

images and more info via

Posted in Code, Computers. Tagged with , , , .