U.S. May Outlaw Uncrackable End-To-End Encrypted Messaging, Report Claims

U.S. May Outlaw Uncrackable End-To-End Encrypted Messaging, Report Claims

By Blair Morris

November 16, 2019

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End-to-end encrypted messaging is a major issue for law enforcement—as the world shifts from easy to crack (for governments) cellular SMS messaging to various flavors of IP messaging, such as WhatsApp, iMessage, Signal and Wickr, governments are exploring their options. The challenge is that such services are provided by technology companies, mostly based in the U.S., making them to a large extent out of reach from lawmakers elsewhere. The messaging services run “over the top,” meaning they are not tied directly to the provider of the network or the phone.

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All of which means that the powerbroker here, as in most things tech, is the U.S. government. Which is why when Politico reported that “senior Trump administration officials met on Wednesday [June 26] to discuss whether to seek legislation prohibiting tech companies from using forms of encryption that law enforcement can’t break,” it was of real significance, “a provocative step that would reopen a long-running feud between federal authorities and Silicon Valley.”

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“Technology is moving fast, and privacy needs to move with it,” Joel Wallenstrom—the CEO of uber-secure messaging platform Wickr—told me. “These are all completely legitimate, understandable even predictable concerns coming from law enforcement and elsewhere.”

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Politico cited several unnamed sources in reporting that “the encryption challenge, which the government calls ‘going dark,’ was the focus of a National Security Council meeting Wednesday morning that included the No. 2 officials from several key agencies.” The discussion focused on the lockdown of messaging apps, billed as “a privacy and security feature,” which “frustrates authorities investigating terrorism, drug trafficking and child pornography.”

.

The challenge for governments, the U.S. included, is that the privacy of messaging has become a central theme in the ongoing debate around privacy, data security and information integrity. People around the world are shifting from public social media posting to closed groups, and messaging platforms have been a major driver of that. Even Facebook has put messaging security and privacy at the center of its new strategy.

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“We hope there is really productive dialog and problem-solving,” Wallenstrom told me, speaking before the NSC news broke. In his view, “lines in the sand” and “folded arms” on the part of governments need to be avoided, with China, North Korea and Iran “not the countries we want to emulate as far as technology is concerned.”

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The example of WeChat in China is especially relevant, where the authorities monitor message traffic on a fairly open basis, with immediate sanctions for misbehavior.

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As the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square approached, it was reported that WeChat users found “keywords or pictures related to the event have been almost instantaneously deleted, with their posters sometimes summarily blocked. On the days of the anniversary itself, users were not even able to change their avatars.”

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And there were many similar stories from the recent public protests in Hong Kong.

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“We hope this [end-to-end encrypted] technology will exist,” Wallenstrom said, “that it’s not blockable… That there are providers of this technology that want to work through these issues and tackle the smart path forward and don’t become binary and say we won’t work with [governments] to work through these debates.”

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There is no single point of view within the U.S. government on this issue, and even “a well-known fault line on encryption within the executive branch,” as reported by Politico. “The DOJ and the FBI argue that catching criminals and terrorists should be the top priority, even if watered-down encryption creates hacking risks. The Commerce and State Departments disagree, pointing to the economic, security and diplomatic consequences of mandating encryption ‘backdoors’.”

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And DHS can see both sides of the debate even within itself. “The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency know the importance of encrypting sensitive data, especially in critical infrastructure operations, but ICE and the Secret Service regularly run into encryption roadblocks during their investigations.”

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Wallenstrom referenced the San Bernardino terrorist attack in 2015, which pitched DOJ against Apple to gain access to the iPhone of one of the attackers. And Politico did the same. For governments, terrorism, child trafficking and elements of serious organized crime become something of a trump card when tackling the public debate on privacy, the ultimate “yes, but.”

.

Earlier this month, a coalition of technology companies, privacy experts and human rights groups published an open response to a discussion document from U.K. spy agency GCHQ that suggested the idea of a ghost protocol to enable “an extra end” in end-to-end encrypted messaging, allowing governments (when required) to listen in.

.

The response from the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Google and WhatsApp was blunt: “It would undermine the authentication process… introduce potential unintentional vulnerabilities, increase risks that communications systems could be abused or misused… It will not matter that conversations are protected by encryption. Communications will not be secure.”

.

“The ghost protocol idea has been proven over and over to be unsustainable,” Wallenstrom told me. “Deciding who gets access to this kind of [intercept] technology means we’re in the business of determining who’s good and who’s bad.” He also pointed out that removing privacy protections opens up content so the platforms themselves can “go snooping through user data.”

.

And if the U.S. does start to genuinely debate such legislation, the backlash will escalate quickly. It is one thing to moderate the content shared on social media, quite another to bring total user privacy to an end. But for law enforcement and national security, there are genuine concerns. Where there are terrorists hiding from the authorities on platforms like Telegram there is a serious public interest issue. On this one, cliche or not, there really are no easy answers.

.

“I believe the future of communication,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in March, “will shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure and messages and content won’t stick around forever.”

.

“Yes, but…”

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. .
.

Getty .

End-to-end encrypted messaging is a significant problem for police– as the world shifts from simple to crack( for federal governments) cellular SMS messaging to numerous tastes of IP messaging, such as WhatsApp, iMessage, Signal and Wickr, governments are exploring their choices. The obstacle is that such services are offered by technology business, primarily based in the U.S., making them to a large extent out of reach from lawmakers in other places. The messaging services run “over the top,” indicating they are not connected directly to the company of the network or the phone.

All of which indicates that the powerbroker here, as in most things tech, is the U.S. government. Which is why when Politico reported that “senior Trump administration officials fulfilled on Wednesday [June 26] to discuss whether to look for legislation forbiding tech business from using kinds of file encryption that law enforcement can’t break,” it was of real significance, “a provocative step that would resume a long-running feud between federal authorities and Silicon Valley.”

” Technology is moving quickly, and personal privacy requires to move with it,” Joel Wallenstrom– the CEO of uber-secure messaging platform Wickr– told me. “These are all completely genuine, easy to understand even foreseeable concerns originating from police and elsewhere.”

Politico pointed out several unnamed sources in reporting that “the file encryption difficulty, which the federal government calls ‘going dark,’ was the focus of a National Security Council conference Wednesday early morning that included the No. 2 officials from a number of essential companies.” The discussion focused on the lockdown of messaging apps, billed as “a privacy and security feature,” which “annoys authorities investigating terrorism, drug trafficking and child porn.”

The difficulty for governments, the U.S. included, is that the privacy of messaging has actually become a main theme in the ongoing dispute around privacy, data security and details stability. Individuals around the globe are moving from public social networks posting to closed groups, and messaging platforms have been a significant driver of that. Even Facebook has actually put messaging security and personal privacy at the center of its new method.

.

” We hope there is really productive dialog and problem-solving,” Wallenstrom informed me, speaking before the NSC news broke. In his view, “lines in the sand” and “folded arms” on the part of governments need to be prevented, with China, North Korea and Iran “not the countries we want to imitate as far as technology is concerned.”

The example of WeChat in China is especially relevant, where the authorities monitor message traffic on a relatively open basis, with instant sanctions for wrongdoing.

As the 30 th anniversary of Tiananmen Square approached, it was reported that WeChat users found “keywords or photos related to the occasion have actually been practically immediately deleted, with their posters sometimes summarily blocked. On the days of the anniversary itself, users were not even able to alter their avatars.”

And there were many similar stories from the current public protests in Hong Kong.

” We hope this [end-to-end encrypted] innovation will exist,” Wallenstrom stated, “ that it’s not blockable … That there are companies of this innovation that wish to resolve these concerns and tackle the clever course forward and don’t end up being binary and say we won’t work with [governments] to resolve these arguments.”

There is no single viewpoint within the U.S. government on this issue, and even “a well-known fault line on encryption within the executive branch,” as reported by Politico. “The DOJ and the FBI argue that catching crooks and terrorists ought to be the leading concern, even if diminished encryption creates hacking threats. The Commerce and State Departments disagree, pointing to the economic, security and diplomatic effects of mandating file encryption ‘backdoors’.”

And DHS can see both sides of the debate even within itself. ” The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency know the importance of encrypting sensitive information, especially in vital infrastructure operations, however ICE and the Trick Service routinely encounter file encryption obstructions during their investigations.”

Wallenstrom referenced the San Bernardino terrorist attack in 2015, which pitched DOJ against Apple to get access to the iPhone of among the attackers. And Politico did the exact same. For federal governments, terrorism, kid trafficking and components of serious the mob ended up being something of a trump card when tackling the public argument on personal privacy, the supreme “yes, but.”

Earlier this month, a coalition of technology companies, personal privacy professionals and human rights groups released an open response to a discussion file from U.K. spy firm GCHQ that recommended the idea of a ghost protocol to allow “an extra end” in end-to-end encrypted messaging, permitting federal governments (when required) to listen in.

The action from the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Google and WhatsApp was blunt: “It would undermine the authentication process … present possible unintentional vulnerabilities, increase risks that communications systems might be abused or misused … I t will not matter that conversations are safeguarded by file encryption. Communications will not be protected.”

” The ghost procedure idea has been proven over and over to be unsustainable,” Wallenstrom told me. “ Deciding who gets access to this sort of [intercept] innovation indicates we remain in the organisation of determining who’s good and who’s bad.” He also pointed out that getting rid of privacy protections opens up material so the platforms themselves can “go sleuthing through user data.”

And if the U.S. does begin to truly dispute such legislation, the backlash will escalate rapidly. It is one thing to moderate the content shared on social media, rather another to bring overall user privacy to an end. However for police and nationwide security, there are genuine concerns. Where there are terrorists hiding from the authorities on platforms like Telegram there is a major public interest issue. On this one, cliche or not, there truly are no simple responses.

” I believe the future of interaction,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg composed in March, “ will shift to personal, encrypted services where people can be positive what they state to each other stays safe and messages and material will not remain permanently.”

” Yes, but …”

” >

End-to-end encrypted messaging is a major issue for police– as the world shifts from easy to crack( for federal governments) cellular SMS messaging to various flavors of IP messaging, such as WhatsApp, iMessage, Signal and Wickr, governments are exploring their choices. The difficulty is that such services are provided by innovation companies, mostly based in the U.S., making them to a large degree out of reach from legislators somewhere else. The messaging services run “over the top,” suggesting they are not connected straight to the supplier of the network or the phone.

All of which implies that the powerbroker here, as in most things tech, is the U.S. federal government.
Which is why when Politico reported that “senior Trump administration officials met on Wednesday [June 26] to talk about whether to look for legislation forbiding tech business from utilizing forms of file encryption that law enforcement can’t break,” it was of real significance, “a provocative action that would reopen a long-running feud between federal authorities and Silicon Valley.”

“Innovation is moving quickly, and privacy needs to move with it,” Joel Wallenstrom– the CEO of uber-secure messaging platform Wickr– informed me. “These are all entirely genuine, reasonable even predictable issues originating from police and in other places.”

Politico cited a number of unnamed sources in reporting that “the encryption obstacle, which the government calls ‘going dark,’ was the focus of a National Security Council conference Wednesday early morning that included the No. 2 officials from a number of key agencies.” The conversation concentrated on the lockdown of messaging apps, billed as “a privacy and security feature,” which “frustrates authorities investigating terrorism, drug trafficking and child porn.”

The difficulty for governments, the U.S. included, is that the personal privacy of messaging has actually ended up being a main style in the ongoing argument around personal privacy, information security and info integrity. People worldwide are moving from public social media publishing to closed groups, and messaging platforms have actually been a major driver of that. Even Facebook has actually put messaging security and personal privacy at the center of its new technique.

“We hope there is actually efficient dialog and problem-solving,” Wallenstrom informed me, speaking prior to the NSC news broke. In his view, “lines in the sand” and “folded arms” on the part of governments need to be avoided, with China, North Korea and Iran “not the countries we desire to replicate as far as innovation is worried.”

The example of WeChat in China is specifically relevant, where the authorities monitor message traffic on a relatively open basis, with immediate sanctions for misdeed.

As the 30 th anniversary of Tiananmen Square approached, it was reported that WeChat users discovered “keywords or pictures associated with the event have actually been nearly immediately deleted, with their posters often summarily obstructed. On the days of the anniversary itself, users were not even able to alter their avatars.”

And there were many comparable stories from the recent public demonstrations in Hong Kong.

“We hope this [end-to-end encrypted] innovation will exist,” Wallenstrom stated,” that it’s not blockable … That there are service providers of this technology that wish to resolve these problems and take on the wise course forward and do not end up being binary and state we will not work with [governments] to overcome these debates.”

There is no single perspective within the U.S. federal government on this concern, and even “a widely known geological fault on encryption within the executive branch,” as reported by Politico. “The DOJ and the FBI argue that capturing lawbreakers and terrorists ought to be the top concern, even if diminished file encryption creates hacking dangers. The Commerce and State Departments disagree, indicating the economic, security and diplomatic effects of mandating encryption ‘backdoors’.”

And DHS can see both sides of the debate even within itself. “The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Firm understand the importance of securing delicate data, specifically in important facilities operations, but ICE and the Secret Service frequently encounter encryption obstructions during their examinations.”

Wallenstrom referenced the San Bernardino terrorist attack in 2015, which pitched DOJ against Apple to access to the iPhone of among the aggressors. And Politico did the same. For governments, terrorism, child trafficking and elements of major organized criminal offense ended up being something of a trump card when taking on the general public debate on privacy, the supreme “yes, but.”

Earlier this month, a union of innovation business, privacy specialists and human rights groups published an open action to a discussion file from U.K. spy firm GCHQ that suggested the idea of a ghost procedure to allow “an extra end” in end-to-end encrypted messaging, enabling federal governments (when required) to eavesdrop.

The reaction from the similarity Apple, Microsoft, Google and WhatsApp was blunt: “It would undermine the authentication procedure … introduce prospective unintentional vulnerabilities, increase threats that interactions systems could be mistreated or misused … I t will not matter that discussions are secured by file encryption. Communications will not be safe and secure.”

“The ghost procedure concept has been proven over and over to be unsustainable,” Wallenstrom told me.” Choosing who gets access to this kind of [intercept] innovation suggests we remain in business of identifying who’s good and who’s bad.” He also mentioned that getting rid of privacy protections opens material so the platforms themselves can “go sleuthing through user data.”

And if the U.S. does begin to truly dispute such legislation, the backlash will escalate quickly. It is something to moderate the material shared on social media, rather another to bring overall user privacy to an end. But for police and national security, there are genuine concerns. Where there are terrorists hiding from the authorities on platforms like Telegram there is a major public interest problem. On this one, cliche or not, there really are no easy answers.

“I think the future of communication,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in March,” will shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they state to each other stays safe and secure and messages and material won’t stick around forever.”

“Yes, but …”

Find Out More .

About Blair Morris