Encrypted Messaging Apps On Spotlight As Possible Tools Used By Terrorists In …

18 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Paris attacks may renew national encryption debate.

The deadly attacks in Paris will likely reopen the debate over whether — and how — tech companies should let the government sidestep the data scrambling that shields everyday commerce and daily digital life alike. So far, there’s no hard evidence that the Paris extremists relied on encrypted communications — essentially, encoded digital messages that can’t be read without the proper digital “keys” — to plan the shooting and bombing attacks that left 129 dead on Friday. So-called end-to-end encryption technology is now widely used in many standard message systems, including Apple’s iMessage and Facebook’s WhatsApp.

Strong encryption is used to protect everything from corporate secrets to the credit-card numbers of online shoppers to intimate photos and secrets shared by lovers. That widespread use of encryption, which was previously restricted to more powerful desktop or server computers, is exactly what worries members of the intelligence and law enforcement communities. Some are now using the occasion of the Paris attacks to once again argue for restrictions on encryption, saying it hampers their ability to track and disrupt plots like this one. “I now think we’re going to have another public debate about encryption, and whether government should have the keys, and I think the result may be different this time as a result of what’s happened in Paris,” former CIA deputy director Michael Morell said Monday on “CBS This Morning.” The last such debate followed the 2013 disclosures of government surveillance by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Since then, tech companies seeking to reassure their users and protect their profits have adopted more sophisticated encryption techniques despite government opposition. Brennan’s remarks, and the emotional public response to the massacre in France, reignited a debate that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks over just how far the government should go in invading individuals’ privacy in the hunt for terrorist plots.

The analysis by 15 professors, security experts and researchers likened the idea of giving the government a digital key to encrypted communications to leaving a house key under the front doormat. “The Snowden revelation showed that backdoors can be destructive, particularly when they’re done in secrecy without transparency,” says Will Ackerly, a former NSA security researcher and the co-founder of Virtru, which provides encryption technology for both companies and individual people. Steven Bellovin, a Columbia University professor and computer security researcher, said he wasn’t surprised by the effort to bring back discussion on encryption backdoors.

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