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Policymakers Sharpen Their Sights On Encryption

Policymakers Sharpen Their Sights On Encryption

by Justin OConnellDecember 28, 2015

Former Assistant FBI Director Steve Pomerantz agreed with a Fox News show host’s determination that terrorism and technology had outpaced legislation.

“Yes, particularly to clear up what the FBI director talks about, that we have the authority to do something, in this case, to listen to  certain telephone calls, and to monitor certain emails,” he said. “But because of encryption, of what technology has done, we can’t do it. This administration has refused to push legislation that would fix that.” The host then suggests going after companies like Twitter and Facebook.

Policymakers and innovators have had disagreements on how to treat encryption. For instance, Apple’s recently announced full-disk encryption plan has been denounced by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr..

According to Vance, the company introduced the plan “so that it could no longer comply with the judicial search warrants that make this work possible.” He said, in doing so, Apple had made history.

“iPhones are now the first consumer products in American history that are beyond the reach of lawful warrants,” Vance said in a statement. “The result is crimes go unsolved and victims are left beyond the protection of law.”

Encryption is becoming part of the popular vernacular, already widely available for messaging systems, including Apple’s iMessage and Facebook’s WhatsApp. Vance put Apple CEO Tim Cook on notice.

“Because Apple is unwilling to help solve this problem, the time for a national, legislative solution is now,” Vance said.

In the Washington Post article by Vance entitled, “5 ways tech companies distort the encryption debate,” he wrote:

In a recently published report, my office — in consultation with cryptologists, technologists and law enforcement partners — has proposed a solution that we believe is both technologically and politically feasible: Keep the operating systems of smartphones encrypted, but still answerable to locally issued search warrants.

This can be achieved in two ways: through good-faith collaboration with Apple and Google or through enactment of a federal statute providing that any smartphone made or sold in the United States must be able to be unlocked — not by the government, but by the designer of the phone’s operating system — when the company is served with a valid search warrant.

While there is currently no precedent for banning encryption, similar proposals have been made in the United Kingdom.What’s more likely than banning encryption is criminalizing those individuals who make such tools available to criminals and terrorists.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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  • PacketWraith

    Most of the politicians and law enforcement talking about this subject never talk about the other what-ifs. If the manufacturer puts a back door in, that is a back door that can be exploited by a hacker or other entity who either finds a flaw in the software backdoor, or who gains the access through the manufacturer. I haven’t seen anything suggesting that the government will cover the manufacturers legal and production cost when this back door is exploited by bad guys to do harm to the individual. Its a sticky legal issue when a consumer then files a lawsuit against the manufacturer stating that they knowingly built in an insecurity “just in case”.

    This issue has been brought up to politicians and law enforcement, but the people talking to the press simply do not understand. All of their responses that I have seen have been “there has to be a way to make it secure and give us access”. What they fail to realize is no there isn’t, access is access, even with authentication it can be bypassed. This has been brought up by all of the top industry security experts, and never answered.

    I for one would appreciate a stop to the “Your a terrorist supporter” simply because I use and support the use of encryption at a personal individual level.

  • Illutian Kade

    Ohnoes, da tarrowists gonna git us all if our gobberments can’t read emails!

  • concerndcitizen

    There’s no limit to what the so called terrorists are blamed for. It’s a handy catch bin since terrorists use money, phones and computers. If you believe the narrative in the mainstream media, they should clamp down on purchases of $3 box cutters. Where does it end? Putting everyone in jail appears to be what they want.