Encryption, DRM, and the Web Cryptography API

Secrets and Keys

Article from Issue 157/2013
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The controversial Web Cryptography API offers flexible encryption for web applications, but it also lays the groundwork for content providers to implement more powerful access restrictions through DRM.

The Web Cryptography API is a proposed addition to the HTML5 specification that will support cryptography for web applications. Modern browsers already have support for several cryptographic technologies. The new Web Cryptography API will extend this cryptography support to web applications through the Domain Object Model (DOM) used for web development.

The new API, which is based on the future ability of web browsers to encrypt and decrypt application data using JavaScript, is currently under review by the World Wide Web consortium (W3C) as a draft. This promising technology reaches well beyond the HTTPS transport security used with many websites, unleashing a flexible new paradigm for encryption in the web space. For example, a custom app could encrypt and store data in the cloud prior to transmission via WebSockets or WebRTC.

Although privacy advocates applaud new techniques for better and more flexible encryption, the Free Internet community has expressed alarm about the Web Cryptography API and has even asked the W3C to stop working on it. The reason for this concern is the potential for this technology to serve as a vehicle for Digital Rights Management (DRM) restrictions to online content.

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