Government, Crypto Backdoors, and The End of Encrypted Messengers: The Keys to The City

Following the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris on January 8th 2015, Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom asked American president Barack Obama to increase pressure on American Internet companies to work more closely with British intelligence agencies, in order to deny potential terrorists a “safe space” to communicate. Further, Prime Minister Cameron pushed for co-operation to implement tighter surveillance controls. Under new proposals, messaging apps will have to either add a backdoor to their programs, or risk a potential ban within the UK. “Are we going to allow a means of communications which it simply isn’t possible to read?” Cameron asked in early 2015 while campaigning, in reference to apps such as WhatsApp, Snapchat, and other encrypted services. “My answer to that question is: ‘No, we must not'” he continued.

Prime Minister Cameron argued that the Paris attacks, including the one on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, underscored the need for greater access. “The attacks in Paris demonstrated the scale of the threat that we face and the need to have robust powers through our intelligence and security agencies in order to keep our people safe,” Cameron said. These comments came following the threat and attack on Sony Pictures, which came after the intended release of The Interview, a political satire comedy film poking fun at the leader of North Korea Kim Jong-Un. Taking up the themes of The Interview, Obama recently accused North Korea of orchestrating the cyber attack on the film studio Sony Pictures due to the film’s subject matter pertaining to North Korea.

Some have interpreted Mr. Cameron’s words as meaning that the government is seeking to ban an important technology that underpins the global economy. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) encryption protects financial details when people shop or bank online while so-called end-to-end encryption such as PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) help keep personal messages private.”Encryption is mathematics, not technology. It can’t be suppressed by law,” Matthew Bloch, managing director of internet hosting firm Bytemark, told the BBC.

It’s simply not possible to ban strong encryption within a country and software that uses strong encryption from crossing its borders. Further, preventing people from installing the software they want on the computing devices they own is an impossible feat. Countries like Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus have tried it and failed. China has tried before and is trying again. I wonder if Cameron is aware of the kind of company he is associating himself with, said Bruce Schneier, a security technologist and CTO of Resilient Systems, Inc. However, as it stands now, the government has “no intention” of introducing legislation to weaken encryption, minister for internet safety and security Baroness Shields told the House of Lords in the wake of the TalkTalk cyber attack debacle.

We once lived in a time where all we ever did was share, communicate, search, view, and enjoy with limited care for safety and privacy. With the world becoming more connected and the need for privacy ever more important, this has become a battle of privacy rights. Plots of terrorism and extremists should be subject to a due and just trial; however, all other individuals who want to protect their affairs, events, PINs, pictures, videos, searching habits, and the conversations they have should be allowed to use encrypted sources like BBM, WhatsApp and the updated iOS. A warrant for access to a back door is still access, and asking for access breaches any potential thought of whatever attempt at encryption was and is if organizations and institutions are subject to handing over mass communication of encrypted data to be a data mine for the government. Enough excuses and piggybacking on potential threats. Be in the know. Stand up for your right to online security and ask your local government representative for their stance on the topic.

About Jitesh Chauhan

Jitesh Chauhan

A student of life with a passion for people, communication, and privacy.

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