Archive for the ‘backdoors’ Category
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Following the leaks by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden that began in the summer of 2013, encryption and encryption backdoors have become hot-button topics of discussion.
That's because many companies, including Apple and Google, have been going out of their way to encrypt products after the public learned that the US had embarked on a massive, legally and morally suspect electronic spying operation against its own citizenry and the global community at large. Fearing encryption is undermining their surveillance capabilities, government officials from the US and across the pond in the UK have been increasingly decrying encryption or at least demanding a government-accessible backdoor to unlock said encryption.
One of the latest rants against encryption occurred Wednesday.
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The United Nation's Office of the High Commissioner released a report Thursday heralding encryption, but it was wishy-washy when it came to government-mandated backdoors to undermine encryption.
The report said:
Encryption and anonymity, and the security concepts behind them, provide the privacy and security necessary for the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in the digital age. Such security may be essential for the exercise of other rights, including economic rights, privacy, due process, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, and the right to life and bodily integrity.
This isn't the first time the UN weighed in on the digital age. In 2011, it declared Internet access a human right.
Technology giants like Apple, Google, and Microsoft urged President Barack Obama on Tuesday to refrain from supporting any US policy that would require the tech sector to install backdoors into their products so the authorities can access encrypted data.
In a letter (PDF) to Obama, dozens of tech companies, cryptologists, and rights groups said mandatory backdoors—which many authorities in the US government and abroad have been calling for—would weaken cybersecurity as well as "undermine human rights."
More than undermining every American’s cybersecurity and the nation’s economic security, introducing new vulnerabilities to weaken encrypted products in the US would also undermine human rights and information security around the globe. If American companies maintain the ability to unlock their customers’ data and devices on request, governments other than the United States will demand the same access, and will also be emboldened to demand the same capability from their native companies. The US government, having made the same demands, will have little room to object. The result will be an information environment riddled with vulnerabilities that could be exploited by even the most repressive or dangerous regimes. That’s not a future that the American people or the people of the world deserve.
Tuesday's letter comes as the White House is in the process of coming up with a position on the issue and in response to a chorus of government officials at home and abroad—including British Prime Minister David Cameron, FBI Director James Comey, and former Attorney General Eric Holder—all calling for backdoors.
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National Security Agency officials are considering a range of options to ensure their surveillance efforts aren't stymied by the growing use of encryption, particularly in smartphones. Key among the solutions, according to The Washington Post, might be a requirement that technology companies create a digital key that can open any locked device to obtain text messages or other content, but divide the key into pieces so no one group could use it without the cooperation of other parties.
"I don't want a back door," Adm. Michael S. Rogers, director of the NSA, recently said during a speech at Princeton University, at which he laid out the proposal. "I want a front door. And I want the front door to have multiple locks. Big locks."
The proposal is part of a tense debate resulting from the growing number of companies that endow their hardware and software with strong encryption that when used properly makes it infeasible if not impossible for anyone other than the owner to access the contents. Chief among these companies is Apple, which has enabled such encryption by default in newer iPhones and iPads. On the one hand, national security and law enforcement officials say the trend could seriously hinder criminal and national security investigations. Tech industry representatives, meanwhile, chafe at the thought of backdoors, citing a raft of concerns, including abuse by hackers, government overreach, and harm to US competitiveness.