In a speech earlier this month, U.S. attorney general William Barr said that users should be ok with the risks associated with encryption backdoors, including those that could affect their personal cybersecurity. That way, law enforcement will be able to access any encrypted communications needed for cases, Tech Crunch reports.
Barr said that the risks – including cyberattacks on personal data – are acceptable because he’s only referring to consumer products and services, like messaging, smart devices, email, etc., not “about protecting the nation’s nuclear launch codes.” He also said that in some cases, improved security can be achieved from “imposing a massive cost on society in the form of degraded safety,” reports Tech Crunch.
Barr’s comments come as encrypted messages continue to climb, now available in Apple products, Facebook, Instagram and other companies; increased encryption was sparked from the “abuse of access by the intelligence services” that followed the Edward Snowden revelations in 2013.
Law enforcement also claims that encryption inhibits their access to communications needed to prosecute criminals, Tech Crunch says, also known as “going dark.” However, despite critiques, security experts say that there isn’t a secure way to design “backdoor” access to encrypted messages for law enforcement without also creating a window of vulnerability for hackers to access users’ personal information.
Big Tech Puts People First
Tech Crunch says that the Barr isn’t the only one who has been calling on big tech companies to help give authorities access to encrypted information. Even still, those companies are pushing back. Major pushback started in the UK a couple of months ago, when UK intelligence agency GCHQ wanted to institute a ghost protocol that would have enabled them to listen in on users’ encrypted conversations.
Similar to the response Barr received during his speech, people weren’t having it, including Apple, Google, Microsoft and WhatsApp. The tech companies penned a letter against GCHQ’s proposal, stating that it “creates serious threats to digital security,” and undermines “the authentication process that enables users to verify that they are communicating with the right people, introduce potential unintentional vulnerabilities, and increase risks that communications systems could be abused or misused,” Tech Crunch says.
Despite support from these big tech companies, government officials may still find a way to avoid “going dark” – Barr didn’t rule out pushing legislation to force tech companies to build encryption backdoors, Tech Crunch says. As a result, decision makers should keep an eye on these cases to see how