Brace Yourself: The Encryption Debate is Coming Back
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Brace Yourself: The Encryption Debate is Coming Back

Lawmakers are once again pushing for encryption backdoors

Raise your hand if you remember the infamous “Apple vs. FBI” feud. If you haven’t been living under a rock, you probably know about this or at the very least have heard of it. And if you paid enough attention, you’d know that this debate was less about Apple and more about encryption.

Since the San Bernardino, California mass shooting, the “end-to-end” encryption deployed by messaging services has become a scapegoat for politicians and federal agencies. Nowadays almost any terrorist attack gets followed by a loud-mouthed criticism of end-to-end encrypted messaging services.

First, it was Amber Rudd, Britain’s Home Secretary, who launched a direct attack against the likes of WhatsApp and other encrypted messaging services. Her “real people don’t need encryption” remark raised many eyebrows.

Afterward, Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, further fueled the fire by saying “enough is enough.” This caused a huge uproar in the pro-encryption community, and consequently, it was followed by severe criticism from security experts.

Then Australia said, “hold my beer,” and began to debate actual policies that could weaken encryption, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying, “The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia.” That sounds a lot like “This is Sparta!” from the movie 300 or something you might say in a wrestling promo, but not the rational thoughts of a world leader discussing encryption.

In between all of this, surprisingly, the U.S. seemed a quieter place – except a few whispers here and there.

This could be about to change.

According to New York Times:

“F.B.I. and Justice Department officials have been quietly meeting with security researchers who have been working on approaches to providing such “extraordinary access” to encrypted devices, according to people familiar with the talks.”

The New York Times also reports that the Trump Administration has been has been talking to security researchers over getting access to encrypted devices. Senate Judiciary committee members are also said to be in talks with industry leaders. These are all said to be preliminary talks talks on whether to push Congress to legislate a mechanism that would give power to government agencies so that they could access encrypted devices.

To put it in other words, the government is pushing for a backdoor. And if government agencies come out in full force for this legislation, the heated encryption debate will be front and center on national television.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this legislation gets proposed in Congress in the very near future, especially considering the fact that Donald Trump sided with the FBI back when he was a presidential candidate. In an interview on Fox and Friends back in 2016, Trump made his views clear by saying, “To think that Apple won’t allow us to get into her cellphone? Who do they think they are?”

He even told people to boycott Apple until “they give that security number.”

Yes, Trump had said a lot of things before the elections, and it’d be nothing but foolish of us to think that this too was nothing but rhetoric from Trump, the candidate. But he isn’t a candidate anymore; he’s the president. And it’s not like Trump’s views on law and order have evolved much in his lifetime—he’s still calling for the execution of the Central Park Five.

One thing is for sure, the government vs. encryption debate is about to heat up. Grab your popcorn!


Jay Thakkar

After graduating from university with an engineering degree, Jay found his true passion as a writer…specifically, a cybersecurity writer. He’s now a Hashed Out staff writer covering encryption, privacy, cybersecurity best practices, and related topics.