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FBI Director Believes Encryption is a Public Safety Issue

Some officials within America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been pushing for reigniting the Crypto Wars, and at a recent cybersecurity conference FBI Director Christopher Wray called encryption “a major public safety issue.” Law enforcement officials from various levels of government spoke at the International Conference on Cyber Security 2018, which was held earlier this month at Fordham University in New York City. Former Director of the CIA John Brennan spoke at the conference, as well as a computer forensics expert from the FBI’s local office, and the New York City District Attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., who has long spoken out against encryption.

FBI Director Christopher Wray complained about the privacy that encrypted information affords people during his speech at the cybersecurity conference. “Being unable to access nearly 7,800 devices is a major public safety issue. That’s more than half of all the devices we attempted to access in that timeframe—and that’s just at the FBI. That’s not even counting a lot of devices sought by other law enforcement agencies—our state, local, and foreign counterparts. It also doesn’t count important situations outside of accessing a specific device, like when terrorists, spies, and criminals use encrypted messaging apps to communicate,” Wray said during his speech.

Prior to the FBI Director’s speech, Matthew Scholl, the Computer Security Division Chief of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) delivered a speech. NIST is part of the United States Department of Commerce, and they help set encryption standards for the United States government. NIST is currently working on developing standards for quantum proof encryption. After Scholl delivered his speech, he was asked a question by privacy rights activist Theo Chino if NIST was developing or working on a form of encryption which would enable the government to gain access to the data with a warrant. Scholl responded by simply saying, “No.”

This concept of warrant accessible encryption, where the government would still be able to gain access is known as key escrow, however, the concept is not all that different from when governments pressure companies to insert backdoors into their products which allow unauthorized remote access. With key escrow government would be storing decryption keys to everyone’s encrypted data, which of course could be abused and a target for malicious hackers and foreign intelligence agencies. Governments around the world frequently ask for backdoors to be inserted into products and services, and in 2016 the FBI was demanding that Apple work with them to defeat security and privacy features on encrypted iPhones of terrorists.

During the 1990s the Clinton administration and others in the federal government pushed the idea of key escrow through something known as the Clipper Chip, which would have encrypted phone calls and data while providing the government and hackers with a way to also decrypt data encrypted using the Clipper Chip. For a while it seemed as though government had lost their attempt to control encryption during the Crypto Wars, but after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 some people in government renewed calls for weakening encryption standards. And to this day some in government are continuing to call for weakened encryption, people like FBI Director Wry and District Attorney Vance, yet currently the government’s own department responsible for coming up with encryption standards is not working on new ways to let the government access private encrypted data. Last year the Deputy Attorney General spoke out in favor of weakening encryption standards.

Later during the conference a computer forensics expert for the FBI, Stephen Flatley, gave a speech in a room packed full of conference attendees. During his speech he called Apple “jerks” and “evil geniuses” for their use of encryption and creating new methods of protecting user accounts from unauthorized access. While Flatley may have been frustrated with Apple in some respects, he also stated during the conference that Apple was at times happy to work with the government. Flatley praised Cellebrite, an Israeli corporation which has worked with the FBI and other agencies of the American federal government to help break into encrypted devices. “If you have another evil genius, Cellebrite, then maybe we can get into that front,” Flatley said at the conference. He had only spoken the name of the Israeli security company, Cellebrite, under his breath as he jokingly coughed.

8 comments

  1. THTOP IT GUYTH WE CANT READ ALL THE METHAGAS AND WE NEED TO READ ALL THE METHAGAS FOR YOUR THECURITY..

    GTFO.

  2. Braindead Government

    What they fail to understand is as always, if you ban unbreakable encryption, the criminals will CONTINUE using unbreakable encryption and the only thing you will achieve is to put the rest of the american people and industry at risk of being exploited and have their freedoms even more restricted.

    This government is a fucking shitshow.

  3. The solution with the highest degree of security is to write your own encryption tools.
    Dear conservatives… by the way, forcing corporations on what kind of products they should provide their customers with,that is called State Interventionism…

  4. I’m almost wondering if these CPU flaws (Meltdown and Spectre) were inserted on purpose to make exploitation and circumvention of strong encryption possible.

    I mean, if you look at the NSA program called BULLRUN, the NSA handed a pile of money to key encryption players (RSA and NIST) to weaken/backdoor it.

    I wonder if Intel (which is 90% of the server/desktop/laptop market) was handed a pile of money back in 1995 to ensure Meltdown and Spectre worked for them.

    Most of the hardware out there is junk and can’t be trusted to do encryption properly anyway.

    I really suspect this FBI stuff is a ruse.

  5. Why should they advertise their weaknesses?

    A lawyer once told me that if they can’t find a computer they don’t have any evidence to go on. So maybe hiding it somewhere beyond the scope of their search warrants would be a good idea.

  6. TheMaskedRevenger

    If privacy (encryption) is criminal, only criminals will have privacy (encryption)

  7. wilkins micawber esq

    governments, in particular the US government, long ago ‘outed’ itself as a bunch of corrupt, lying, treacherous SCUMbags;
    as such: they have zero moral authority so their increasingly frantic calls for controlling encryption will, quite simply, fall on deaf ears!
    BTW: the best form of encryption is One Time Pad and that’s, pretty much, uncontrollable !

  8. wilkins micawber esq

    Flatley praised Cellebrite, an Israeli corporation which has worked with the FBI and other agencies of the American federal government to help break into encrypted devices

    jews are a menace to freedom every-where;
    there’s a pretty good argument that they should be done away with entirely!

    I wonder if Intel (which is 90% of the server/desktop/laptop market) was handed a pile of money back in 1995 to ensure Meltdown and Spectre worked for them —– Most of the hardware out there is junk and can’t be trusted to do encryption properly anyway

    pretty sure that if you got an old P4 ‘clunker’ or earlier you’d be OK;
    wouldn’t trust any-thing after that, though;
    personally, i think 1995 is too early for them to have been ‘on’ to the dangers of PGP because the interwebs weren’t a phenomenon back then;
    2002/2003 sounds more ‘on-the-mark’, as the article seems to suggest [?]

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