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Holder and FBI Looking to Stop Civilian Use of Strong Crypto

Need more evidence that the government wants access to all your private information? Then check out the recent move by Attorney General Eric Holder and the FBI to subvert the use of strong cryptography by the average citizen.

As noted by Cory Doctorow, the move to weaken civilian use of strong crypto is actually a rehash of an issue that was temporarily settled in 1995 when the Electronic Frontier Foundation won a court case that declared computer code to be part of free speech.

At that time the government wanted what it still wants today – back doors into people’s information. The government does not want unauthorized personnel (you) to be able to protect your information with cryptography they cannot break. In their mind the only ones who have a right to privacy and secrecy are those who are supposed to be accountable to the public.

If that doesn’t sound like a republic, well, it isn’t.

The arguments then are the arguments now. Governments invoke the Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse (software pirates, organised crime, child pornographers, and terrorists) and say that unless they can decrypt bad guys’ hard drives and listen in on their conversations, law and order is a dead letter. On the other side, virtually every security and cryptography expert tries patiently to explain that there’s no such thing as “a back door that only the good guys can walk through” (hat tip to Bruce Schneier). Designing a computer that bad guys can’t break into is impossible to reconcile with designing a computer that good guys can break into.

If you give the cops a secret key that opens the locks on your computerised storage and on your conversations, then one day, people who aren’t cops will get hold of that key, too. The same forces that led to bent cops selling out the public’s personal information to Glen Mulcaire and the tabloid press will cause those cops’ successors to sell out access to the world’s computer systems, too, only the numbers of people who are interested in these keys to the (United) Kingdom will be much larger, and they’ll have more money, and they’ll be able to do more damage.

In Doctorow’s view, the most scandalous aspect of the Edward Snowden revelations was the permanent campaign by US and foreign intelligence services to sabotage security of technology products and lower security standards so they could break into technology the public was using and get around privacy protections. The government was working to make their citizens’ lives less safe.

While that is clearly a betrayal of the public trust it is also clearly is not an accident. The intelligence community wants to stop the public from having strong crypto because they do not want the public to have the same right they claim for themselves. The deep state demands to be a class above the rest with special class privileges – a breed apart that stands above the public and the law.

CommunityThe Bullpen

Holder And FBI Looking To Stop Civilian Use Of Strong Crypto

Need more evidence that the government wants access to all your private information? Then check out the recent move by Attorney General Eric Holder and the FBI to subvert the use of strong cryptography by the average citizen.

As noted by Cory Doctorow, the move to weaken civilian use of strong crypto is actually a rehash of an issue that was temporarily settled in 1995 when the Electronic Frontier Foundation won a court case that declared computer code to be part of free speech.

At that time the government wanted what it still wants today – back doors into people’s information. The government does not want unauthorized personnel (you) to be able to protect your information with cryptography they can not break. In their mind the only ones who have a right to privacy and secrecy are those who are supposed to be accountable to the public.

If that doesn’t sound like a republic, well, it isn’t.

The arguments then are the arguments now. Governments invoke the Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse (software pirates, organised crime, child pornographers, and terrorists) and say that unless they can decrypt bad guys’ hard drives and listen in on their conversations, law and order is a dead letter. On the other side, virtually every security and cryptography expert tries patiently to explain that there’s no such thing as “a back door that only the good guys can walk through” (hat tip to Bruce Schneier). Designing a computer that bad guys can’t break into is impossible to reconcile with designing a computer that good guys can break into.

If you give the cops a secret key that opens the locks on your computerised storage and on your conversations, then one day, people who aren’t cops will get hold of that key, too. The same forces that led to bent cops selling out the public’s personal information to Glen Mulcaire and the tabloid press will cause those cops’ successors to sell out access to the world’s computer systems, too, only the numbers of people who are interested in these keys to the (United) Kingdom will be much larger, and they’ll have more money, and they’ll be able to do more damage.

In Doctorow’s view, the most scandalous aspect of the Edward Snowden revelations was the permanent campaign by US and foreign intelligence services to sabotage security of technology products and lower security standards so they could break into technology the public was using and get around privacy protections. The government was working to make their citizens’ lives less safe.

While that is clearly a betrayal of the public trust it is also clearly is not an accident. The intelligence community wants to stop the public from having strong crypto because they do not want the public to have the same right they claim for themselves. The deep state demands to be a class above the rest with special class privileges – a breed apart that stands above the public and the law.

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Dan Wright

Dan Wright

Daniel Wright is a longtime blogger and currently writes for Shadowproof. He lives in New Jersey, by choice.