McCain, Feinstein & Head of Senate Intelligence Committee Calling for a Debate on Encrypted Networks
Early Monday morning we posted a report titled "Horrific Terror Attacks in France will Bring Next-Gen Encryption Back into the Spotlight." The report noted Apple's CEO disagreement with the newly proposed UK Law that will force tech companies to comply with warrants concerning encryption. The law of course aimed at all encryption software and apps. The report pointed to even the Playstation 4 possibly being used by terrorists to plan deadly attacks. In the last few days, an app called the Telegram has received the most attention by CNN
It's being reported today that yesterday Senator John McCain told reporters that he would hold a series of hearings and eventually pursue legislation that would require companies provide the government with access to encryption.
The encryption debate was fizzling out in Washington after the White House announced it would not seek legislation requiring technology companies to provide law enforcement with a back door to access encrypted data. But after Friday's attacks in Paris, that's changed even in the face of security and privacy experts having stated that there is no technologically feasible way to create a backdoor for law enforcement.
TechCrunch thinks that McCain's statements mean there could be a new 'cryptowar' about to kick off in the United States as it has in the UK.
On Tuesday we also heard from the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee Richard Burr who said that the Paris attackers were likely "ISIL-directed" and used encryption to communicate. Burr added that "We need to begin the debate on what we do on encrypted networks because it makes us blind to the communications and actions of potential adversaries."
Today, the Wall Street Journal has just reported from the Cybersecurity Conference in New York that "Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.. said his office has been unable to access evidence on encrypted phones in 111 cases handled by his office. Newer operating systems on phones made by Apple Inc. and Google can’t be unlocked without the user passcode, even by the companies themselves. Mr. Vance called for legislation that would mandate that mobile-phone companies have the capacity to unlock a customer device when presented with a search warrant. “We don’t want a key held by the government."
During that same conference, FBI Director James Comey said that the bureau has tracked Islamic State recruiting efforts on Twitter and reviewed private messages between sympathizers after obtaining court orders. But when Islamic State commanders find a recruit willing to die for the cause, they move their communications over to encrypted platforms, "going dark." His remarks were part of a public campaign by law-enforcement and intelligence officials for access to encrypted phones and communications, in the face of new software and devices promoted by companies as impervious to government surveillance.
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein said on Monday that "I think that Silicon Valley has to take a look at their products,” she continued. “Because if you create a product that allows evil monsters to communicate in this way, to behead children, to strike innocents — whether it’s at a game in a stadium, in a small restaurant in Paris, take down an airlines — that is a big problem. So we need high tech’s help in securing an internet that even with a court order you can’t get to what they’re saying. That’s a big problem."
This is an issue that is only going to grow louder as we move into election year 2016. This is without a doubt a tinderbox topic where those on both sides of the issue have passionate reasoning. Yet at some point in time, there's going to have to be a compromise as the war against ISIS mounts, or an ISIS attack, god forbid, hits the US Homeland. Then the gloves will be off with Silicon Valley and law abiding citizens will demand laws come into being that will end this kind of unbreakable encryption once and for all. Just don't count on Silicon Valley or Apple in particular to go down without a fight.