New York Bill Would Mandate Backdoors into Smartphones

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.

Samburaj is the contributing editor at Hacked and keeps tabs on science, technology and cyber security.