Crypto Wars

Encryption, it’s a complicated thing but something which is designed to protect our data, whatever it may be, could potentially be providing criminals with a loophole that protects them from experiencing the hammer of justice, when they go rogue. Some high profile officials in the US & UK are warning that this scenario may be playing out.

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An example of encryption protecting criminals, is the story of Apple’s iMessage court case, which is going on. Apple had been asked to hand over messages, which were from the iMessage service but they told the court that they couldn’t, all because those messages where encrypted.

Law enforcement wanted to take Apple to court over their failure to provide this information, as it was part of a criminal investigation. The plan to do so was thrown out, partly because Apple couldn’t decrypt them themselves.

iMessage uses something called end-to-end encryption, the message is encrypted on the sending device and only decrypted when the addressed recipient receives the message. So even during transit the data is still encrypted, making wiretaps useless and without the passcodes of the devices in question, there is no way to access these messages.

The UK government wants to ban all encrypted messaging services, to allow its law enforcement access. While in the US, there are calls for technology services to provide a shared master key, which would allow “front door” access to this encrypted data.

The major problem with this idea, is that, not only does it provide access for law officials but doing so may even create vulnerabilities which criminals could use to exploit.  This is the biggest problem with the shared master key idea. One which even some US officials have admitted to.

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has praised Apples stance on this encryption issue and advocates for more technology developers to implement end-to-end encryption.

This is one issue I can see being debated for years to come. There needs to be balance of protecting our privacy, while still allowing digital forensic professionals the ability to gather evidence on criminals who hide under encryption. I don’t have the answer but I personally think our privacy should not be compromised just because governments don’t like it. This is a tough one alright.

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