Encryption Under Attack Again, This Time By The Five Eyes

Encryption has been dominating the news again, in a battle that seems to never end. In the latest in this ongoing debate, a concept called “responsible encryption” is being thrown around. What this refers to is a way to encrypt that both offers consumers privacy and security, and also affords law enforcement access to messages if and when they need to read them during investigations. Many officials believe tech companies can – and should – enable law enforcement by building technology that affords access directly into devices.

The latest push to eliminate unbreakable encryption is coming from a variety of places – but is being purported primarily by the “Five Eyes.” The “Five Eyes” refers to a group of countries engaged in an agreement which includes collaboration on intelligence, comprised of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US. This coalition recently turned their focus on encryption, in an attempt to force technology companies to build backdoors into devices to allow access for law enforcement.

In the United States, the renewed attack on encryption has been especially strong. US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recently lamented that encryption had stopped them from accessing content on upwards of 6,000 mobile devices last year. His solution is a push for “responsible encryption:” “Responsible encryption is achievable. Responsible encryption can involve effective, secure encryption that allows access only with judicial authorization.” 

Rosenstein has emerged as the “top crusader” against strong encryption in recent months, as pointed out by Ars Technica.

Some authorities in the UK and Australia are also advocating for this approach.

Responsible Encryption: Very Irresponsible

“Responsible encryption” is not actually responsible – nor is it even possible. What certain officials are arguing for has often been called by another name – backdoor encryption. The responsible encryption would work by offering a “key” or a backdoor into communications, which law enforcement could use to access content when needed. As we have seen many times in the past and repeatedly warned, a backdoor for law enforcement is a backdoor for anyone (including hackers), introducing a dangerous vulnerability. It’s good to see tech companies and privacy advocates pushing back against this impossible concept and refusing to weaken security for all. At Golden Frog we have always supported strong, unbreakable encryption without backdoors, and will continue to fight for this encryption to be present in technologies.

Fighting Back

In response to this latest, renewed attack on encryption many technology companies are standing up against the idea of intentionally building an insecurity into a secure technology. Advocacy group Open Media has launched a campaign on the issue via a letter to leadership of the Five Eyes countries. Among the main asks of the letter are the following:

As leaders of the global community, we ask you to commit to upholding the security of your citizens. In particular, we ask that you make a public commitment that you will not:

  • Seek to weaken encryption standards
  • Seek to ban encryption
  • Require or pressure tech companies to build ‘backdoors’ to encryption
  • Require or pressure service providers to design communication tools in ways that facilitate government interception

We stand behind Open Media and their efforts, and will continue to fight for the strong, unbreakable encryption that is absolutely essential for Internet users around the world.

Join us in standing up for strong encryption and demanding the leaders of the Five Eyes nations do the same – Sign the Open Media letter now

Sources: Reuters, CNET, Engadget

Carlos Espinosa

Carlos manages Golden Frog's government affairs on the local, state, national and international levels to educate and influence policy around privacy, encryption and the open Internet. He has served in government affairs for over 20 years.

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