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key escrow

(kē es´krō) (n.) A data security measure in which a cryptographic key is entrusted to a third party (i.e., kept in escrow). Under normal circumstances, the key is not released to someone other than the sender or receiver without proper authorization. Key escrow systems can be considered a security risk at the user puts access to information into the hands of the escrow agent holding the cryptographic key; however, key escrow systems are used to ensure that there is a backup of the cryptographic key in case the parties with access to key lose the data through a disaster or malicious intent.

The Clipper chip brought the idea of key escrow into the public consciousness.

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