President Trump’s Attorney General, William Barr, has demanded the tech industry create encryption backdoors because he views encryption as a security risk. Barr made his illogical thoughts on encryption known to the world while speaking at an event at Fordham University earlier this morning. He decried warrant proof encryption and cited the many phones and many many messages that law enforcement has been unable to access due to encryption – emphasizing that tech companies need to get off their high horse and stop being so dogmatic. The gist of the AG’s argument was that encryption must be broken (by tech firms) simply because it “can be and must be” done. Barr promulgated his indefensible position:
“We are confident that there are technical solutions that will allow lawful access to encrypted data and communications by law enforcement, without materially weakening the security provided by encryption.”
Beginner’s guide to encryption
The thing is that “warrant proof” encryption, also known as end-to-end encryption, is a feature not a bug. What’s more, it’s a feature that can’t be hidden no matter how much huffing and puffing goes on.
The US Government’s Attorney General is “tired” of the tech industry’s dogmatic approach to encryptionThis isn’t dogma, it’s simple truth. Politicians need to fully understand why there is no way for a technical solution to exist. There isn’t any way for lawful access to exist without materially weakening the security provided by encryption. The mutual exclusivity is simple: Any backdoor that is created can and likely will be accessed and utilized by a malicious third party eventually. That sure sounds like a material weakness. No, calling the backdoor a “side door” does not change things. As Brett Max Kaufman of the ACLU’s Center for Democracy told AP News:
“There is no way to give the FBI access to encrypted communications without giving the same access to every government on the planet.”
Encryption can’t be regulated awayAround the world, the only people that advocate for encryption backdoors are the same people that reliably demonstrate a lack of understanding of the underlying technologies that make our internet connected world tick. Politicians in Australia and the UK have also made fools of themselves by demanding for encryption to be backdoored and the laws of mathematics to be ignored.
There are politicians that understand encryption, though. AP News reported that Oregon’s Senator Ron Wyden responded to the comments from the Senate floor on Tuesday, calling the AG’s path forward an “outrageous, wrongheaded and dangerous proposal.” Senator Wyden also commented:
“If we give this attorney general and this president the unprecedented power to break encryption across the board burrow into the most intimate details of every American’s life – they will abuse those powers.”Even if the US government somehow coerced every single tech firm in the entire world, let alone in America where it has jurisdiction but still no power to do this, to acquiesce to installing government mandated encryption backdoors, there would still be open source end-to-end encryption that would work. That is because math works, and no amount of huffing and puffing can stop that. The big bad wolf of ignorance keeps coming for the infallible brick house that is encryption but encryption-deniers will never prevail because un-backdoored encryption will always be available and to even try to take it away is tantamount to an attack on free speech.