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New York Bill Would Mandate Backdoors into Smartphones

New York Bill Would Mandate Backdoors into Smartphones

by Samburaj DasJanuary 14, 2016

A new bill up for consideration in the New York state assembly would mandate smartphone manufacturers to decrypt their phones for law enforcement to install backdoors and gain access to smartphones on demand.

The bill, introduced by Assemblyman Matt Titone in summer 2015 was referred to the committee last week, also proposes a $2,500 fine for each device that flouts the requirement, as revealed by On The Wire.

The primary requirement of the bill is:

…any smartphone manufactured on or after January 1, 2016, and sold or leased in New York, shall be capable of being decrypted and unlocked by its manufacturer or its operating system provider.

Encryption has long been a hot topic of debate between policymakers and tech companies. Silicon Valley is refusing to budge, noting that any move to weaken device encryption and security for law enforcement is a vulnerability in itself, with a backdoor now available for malicious hackers and attackers.

As things stand, all new iPhones and some Android phones are encrypted by default.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. weighed into the debate recently. He claimed iPhones are the first consumer products in American history to go beyond the reach of lawful warrants. He called for a “national, legislative solution,” stating that Apple’s unwillingness to give in to backdoors.

The note included in the bill explains the reasoning for this sweeping measure and the fine proposed for every device that doesn’t comply with the requirement.

 The safety of the citizenry calls for a legislative solution, and a solution is easily at hand. Enacting this bill would penalize those who would sell smart- phones that are beyond the reach of law enforcement.

The fact is that, although the new software may enhance privacy for some users, it severely hampers law enforcement’s ability to aid victims. All of the evidence contained in smartphones and similar devices will be lost to law enforcement, so long as the criminals take the precaution of protecting their devices with passcodes. Of course, they will do so. Simply stated, passcode-protected devices render lawful court orders meaningless and encourage criminals to act with impunity.

In statements that may come as a surprise to many, the former director of the NSA, Michael Hayden spoke against backdoors and voiced his disagreement with FBI’s plan to put an end to or limit encryption.

Speaking at a recent cybersecurity conference in Miami beach where the former director claimed the NSA are the best hackers in the world, he stated:

I actually think end-to-end encryption is good for America. I know encryption represents a particular challenge for the FBI. But on balance, I actually think it creates greater security for the American nation than the alternative: a backdoor.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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  • MickGhee

    dont worry folks there will be a custom rom which fools the network into thinking the phone is compliant. there is nothing they can do that we cant undo. Well on Android anyway. Just another reason to ditch your Iphone and join the openspource revolution

    • Illutian Kade

      Or….we could just revolt and throw the scum out.

      It’s easy to make a hardware backdoor, just as it is to make a software one.

      • MickGhee

        much easier to hack it than revolt but i like where you are going … lock n load patriot

  • This is the worst dictatorship in History. Worse then Asian-Genghis Khan, who genocided 127,000,000 million indigenous Russian and European tribal peoples.
    Worse then the Moors who genocided some 9,000,000 indigenous Spanish tribal peoples.
    Worse then the Holodomor which genocided 45,000,000 indigenous tribal peoples of Ukraine and Russia.
    What is wrong with these lunatics.
    No freedoms here. I check with the Federal government everyday just to receive permission to breath. They always reluctantly grant me this permission each and everyday. I fear for when they deny me the right to breath, for i must let out to much Carbon i am sure..

  • Dan Gul

    All that will do is open up better ways to root the phones. Considering most of the people in power a technical troglodytes, they miss the easy win this is for hackers. Since the law specifically requires MANUFACTURERS and Phone operators to do this, if the encryption is not theirs, there is nothing they can do legally. Part of this is the danger however of being under contract with a phone carrier who can pass the legal issues to the customer. This action will make the demand for off contract phones higher and drive prices lower (or higher) in NY if this idiotic law passes. I am skeptical that this law will pass though. Too many consumer protections violated. The word really needs to get out there to NYers to be aware of this.