What would the world look like if encryption were outlawed? If three Republican senators get their way, it might just happen.
Under the guise of national security, the Senate Judiciary Committee pushed through a draft bill that would end “warrant-proof” encryption — that is strong, near-impossible to break encryption that lets only the device owner unlock their data and nobody else. Silicon Valley quickly embraced this approach, not least because it cuts even the tech giants out of the loop so that the feds can’t demand they hand over their users’ data.
Except that didn’t happen. The opposite happened. The FBI cried foul, as did the Justice Department, claiming it makes it harder to solve crimes, while conveniently neglecting to mention its vast array of hacking tools that also makes it easier than ever to get the data that prosecutors seek.
Now a legislative fix to the government’s near-nonexistent problem. The bill, if passed, would create a “backdoor mandate” that would force tech companies to build in “backdoors” to let police, with a warrant, access an encrypted device’s photos, messages, files and more. The same would apply to data “in motion” as it traverses the internet, undermining the security that keeps our emails safe and our online banking secure, and effectively banning end-to-end messaging apps like Signal, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
Experts decried the bill, as expected, and as they have done with every other attempt to undermine the security of the internet. Their argument is simple, and mathematically irrefutable: If police can get a backdoor, so can hackers. There’s no secure way to give one access and not the other.
Lawmakers seem set on changing the law of the land, but they can’t change the laws of mathematics.
More on that in this week’s Decrypted.
THE BIG PICTURE
‘BlueLeaks’ dumps data on decades of police files
Hacking collective Anonymous crashed onto the internet a decade ago by publishing reams of secret files and stolen data from governments and corporations. Last week the collective emerged after a long hiatus, returning with a massive trove of data obtained from hundreds of U.S. police departments in an operation dubbed BlueLeaks.
The data was published by Distributed Denial of Secrets, an alternative to WikiLeaks that’s dedicated to publishing files in the public interest. The data contains a decade’s worth of police training materials and other internal law enforcement data, like protest containment strategies, which have come under fire after tactics used against protesters in the wake of George Floyd’s death.