Washington Post's Clueless Editorial On Phone Encryption: No Backdoors, But How About A Magical 'Golden Key'?
from the golden-key-cryptography dept
The Washington Post editorial board has weighed in on the recent “controversy” over Apple and Google’s smart decision to start encrypting mobile devices by default. The “controversy” itself seems pretty hyped up by law enforcement types who are either lying or clueless about the technology. Throwing a bunch of technically ignorant newspaper editors into the mix probably wasn’t the wisest of decisions.
Much of the editorial engages in hand-wringing about what law enforcement is going to do when they need the info on your phone (answer: same thing they did for years before smartphones, and most of the time with smartphones as well, which is regular detective work). It even repeats the bogus use of the phrase “above the law” that FBI director James Comey bizarrely keeps repeating (hint: putting a lock on your stuff isn’t making you above the law). But the real kicker is the final paragraph:
How to resolve this? A police ?back door? for all smartphones is undesirable ? a back door can and will be exploited by bad guys, too. However, with all their wizardry, perhaps Apple and Google could invent a kind of secure golden key they would retain and use only when a court has approved a search warrant. Ultimately, Congress could act and force the issue, but we?d rather see it resolved in law enforcement collaboration with the manufacturers and in a way that protects all three of the forces at work: technology, privacy and rule of law.
Did you get that? No “back door,” but rather a “golden key.” Now, I’m not sure which members of the Washington Post editorial board is engaged in mythical “golden key” cryptography studies, but to most folks who have even the slightest understanding of technology, they ought to have recognized that what they basically said is: “a back door is a bad idea, so how about creating a magic back door?” A “golden key” is a backdoor and a “backdoor” is a “golden key.” The two are indistinguishable and the Post’s first point is the only accurate one: it “can and will be exploited by bad guys, too.” That’s why Apple and Google are doing this. To protect users from bad guys.
In the meantime, just watch, and we’ll start to see ignorant politicians and law enforcement start to echo this proposal as well, talking down “backdoors” and talking up “golden keys.” The fact that we already had this debate in the 1990s, when the “golden key” was called “key escrow” and when having the government lose that was was fairly important in allowing the internet to become so useful, will apparently be lost on the talking heads.
Still, a small request for the Washington Post Editorial Board: before weighing in on a subject like this, where it’s fairly clear that none of you have the slightest clue, perhaps try asking a security expert first?