Ignorant Anti-Encryption Law Enforcement Groups Made A Logo And A Hashtag… And It All Backfired

from the do-you-even-social-media? dept

Yesterday morning, things kicked off with a ridiculous tweet from the NY Police Department, announcing that it “stood with” the Manhattan DA in calling for “encryption” legislation. Of course, that’s inaccurate. What it was really calling for was anti-encryption legislation.

But, suddenly we discovered that not only was Manhattan District Attorney — and proudly technologically ignorant — Cyrus Vance continuing to push his dangerous anti-encryption views, but he had somehow created a hashtag and a logo for it (I’ve sent in a FOIA request to see how much tax payer dollars were spent on the logo, though I doubt I’ll get a response). Vance held quite the grandstanding press conference over this, in which he repeated the same misleading claims as in the past about how horrible encryption is, and then trotted out some sob stories of cases where law enforcement failed to do their job, and then blamed it on encryption.

You can watch the half-hour press conference below if you have the stomach for it:
Of course, just about everything about this is ridiculous. It took place just a few days after Patrick O’Neill, over at the DailyDot, revealed some details of a FOIA request he’d made with Vance’s office about all those cases he claimed he needed to get into phones for — and found that, of the ones that were listed all had resulted in convictions anyway, even without getting into the phones. And most didn’t appear to be for really serious crimes.

Meanwhile, as is often the case, an attempt by law enforcement to co-opt whatever “the kids these days” are doing by setting up a hashtag failed spectacularly. First off, Vance’s office just happened to pick a hashtag that was already in use. Even worse, it was in use by the Quakers to push for criminal justice reform that would “start to reverse the failed 40-year ‘war on drugs.’ Ooops.

Then, of course, the folks who actually understand technology took the hashtag and ran with it, explaining why Vance’s campaign was idiotic.

After going through lots and lots of tweets, I have to admit that I couldn’t find any — outside of those from the DA’s office and various law enforcement people that were actually supportive of the campaign. It really makes you wonder, just who does Cyrus Vance think he’s protecting?

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Comments on “Ignorant Anti-Encryption Law Enforcement Groups Made A Logo And A Hashtag… And It All Backfired”

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62 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

When voyeuristic desires are given more importance than privacy and security

It really makes you wonder, just who does Cyrus Vance think he’s protecting?

Short answer: Not the public.

Slightly longer answer: The ability for the police to access anything and everything they want, without the ‘burden’ of having to get a warrant and present it to the owner of a device, with the potential of said owner refusing the ‘request’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: When voyeuristic desires are given more importance than privacy and security

The ability for the police to access anything and everything they want, without the ‘burden’ of having to get a warrant and present it to the owner of a device, with the potential of said owner refusing the ‘request’.

This is what we’re calling “fascist” here.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Two or more people violating constitutional rights commit a felony crime by doing so. If anyone dies as a result of the violation of rights, even a cop being shot to death by a victim of the rights violation, the rights violation becomes a capital crime.

How precisely does expecting people to obey they law make the site anti-law?

I.T. Guy says:

#AmericaWhereAreYou

Yeah, we all like to sit behind our keyboards and bitch and whine. But what are we going to do about it? Short answer is not a god damn thing. No marches on our local Police stations. No marches to Washington. No letters to our Congresscritters. Nothing. These fukers lie under “Oath,” get caught in the lie, and still get to walk away free. If it were you or me though it would be jail time.
https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160227/20133433735/court-shoots-down-cops-attempting-to-prop-up-two-warrantless-searches-with-stack-lies.shtml

Where’s the outrage, the anger? The average sheep is like meh. It should be:
#NobodyCaresAnymore

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“But what are we going to do about it? Short answer is not a god damn thing.”

No, we are doing the worst thing possible in their eyes. We sit at home and secretly (SECRETLY) whine about them. It drives them crazy. Public demonstrations are easily foiled. True freedom is inside our heads and they’ll have to take drastic measures to take that away from us.

‘You only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power – he’s free again.’ (Solzhenitsyn)

Whatever (profile) says:

cough

I can’t help but wondering, though…

Basic encryption (in it’s simplest forms) is better than none. It’s similar to having a cheap lock on a door rather than no lock at all.

The question is at what point is the lock on the door overkill? Does every door have to be like a bank vault before everyone feels secure? Does everyone have to have super duper mega encryption on everything all the time in order to feel safe?

There is a point perhaps where the level of encryption goes past doing the job and gets on to being legally obstructionist. Just saying…

sorrykb (profile) says:

Re: cough

The question is at what point is the lock on the door overkill? Does every door have to be like a bank vault before everyone feels secure? Does everyone have to have super duper mega encryption on everything all the time in order to feel safe?

No, but I like having the option.

This is about people being able to make that choice for themselves with their own communications and data.

Con3t$$ed Ci@#z3n says:

Re: cough

So. Look at the way you phrase this.”Does every door have to be like a bank vault before everyone feels secure?” I guess you’ve never been to southern LA or Bel Air. Would the obsructionis people be the who can afford LAPD minitank resistant gates or the people who spend a disproportionate percentage of their funds on a steel door and bars for their windows because they live in fear of armed assault on their homes.

The simple fact is that if everyone knew about this, everyone would want it. Everyone want bad guys to keep their hands off their stuff. What’s more attractive than free security. I think we’ve seen in these fine pages just how for the cops are willing to go to keep our hands off of their private stuff. Why shouldn’t we return the complement? The arguments against backdoors are just spooling up. Why not get on the right side of the argument for once, unless you’re just here to stir the the pot. Just saying…
[ reply to this |

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: cough

Imagine that buying and installing your bank vault door costs exactly the same as buying and installing a cheap deadbolt. Why would you choose the deadbolt in that case, if the vendor made the bank vault door as simple and easy to use as the deadbolt? More importantly, when you hear in the news that cops got Congress to pass a law that now everybody has to use a deadbolt and nobody is allowed to use bank vault doors (not even banks, they just have a really big 2′ wide deadbolt), how loud do you scream and complain that your bank isn’t keeping your money safe?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: cough

“The question is at what point is the lock on the door overkill?”

That’s an easy question: the lock on my door is overkill when when it exceeds the amount of security that I am satisfied with.

What is “strong enough” is a call that only I can make. Nobody else has any business telling me what’s too strong. Just as I have no business telling anyone else what their maximum security level should be.

Seegras (profile) says:

Re: Re: cough

Yeah, I can tell you how this would work. If woke up by chance an noticed that bugger of a robot trying to brute force my phone, I’d fry him with some live wires.

After that, I get arrested and dragged to a court, for “destruction of government property”, and the judge explains me that the intrusion is not a violation of privacy, since it’s a robot and not a human being, and also that what the robot did does not require a warrant, since no human will be looking at the contents of the phone, or use the PIN, and that I will only have any standing when some human eventually decides to have a look at the material. That fact will also be classified.

Maybe I should write a book about something like this. Would be a bit close to that one, though: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/7849

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: cough

Weak encryption is like having a flimsy door and cheap lock. Strong encryption is like having a metal security door and a quality lock. World class encryption is like living inside a bank vault.

Just because a strong door or strong encryption might slow down a police search warrant execution does not mean it can only be used for evil ends. For every SWAY raid, there are hundreds or thousands of crimes from home invasion to sneaky burglaries — if there weren’t, the police would be out of a job.

Outlawing encryption is no different than outlawing locking your front door when you leave the house. And who gets to decide that your front door is too strong to be legal?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: cough

The think is that with encryption, at some point, anyone can have something as heavy as your government has to break it. And they are anywhere in this planet, and can target you from their homes, who knows for what reasons (and here I’m including terrorists, governments…).

If you want to have a good analogy of it: the guys wanting to break your door got, apart from having nukes, a teleport that would allow them to plant themselves in front of your door without anyone being able to stop them.

That being the situation, I wouldn’t feel secure if my home wasn’t an anti-nuke bunker able to stop Russia and US’ combined nuclear arsenals.

If I’m going to be targeted by government level weapons, I’d want government level stuff to protect myself.

Even if that makes the police unable to catch criminals using communications. They still got the odd legwork, that has always worked wonders.

Also: don’t forget that the criminals we want to catch would still use that “legally obstructionist” encryption to secure themselves.

So you’re telling me that I should be less safe than someone willing to blow my brains in the name of their religion? Not a chance.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: cough

“Basic encryption (in it’s simplest forms) is better than none. It’s similar to having a cheap lock on a door rather than no lock at all.”

That can actually be more dangerous, not less. If the person with the lock doesn’t realise it’s cheap piece of crap that’s easily broken, they may be lulled into a false sense of security compared to if they know it’s not locked. Burglars and other attackers will happily take advantage, especially if the only reason the cheap lock is used is because it’s legally mandated that it not be stronger.

“The question is at what point is the lock on the door overkill?”

No, the question is who should get to make that choice. If you do not consider a decent lock overkill, and you know you need a better one, should you be forced to use one that you know is easily picked? Or, should you just accept that you feel that your family and property be jeopardised because the police want to break in as easily as the criminals?

“Just saying…”

Yes, we know what you’re saying. It’s a shame that you can’t address the opinions and questions raised in favour of inane contrarian rambling just because you have to try and deflect from the real discussion.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: cough

The question is at what point is the lock on the door overkill?

That’s up to the person installing the lock to decide?

There is a point perhaps where the level of encryption goes past doing the job and gets on to being legally obstructionist. Just saying…

No such thing. Security measures are never enough to keep attackers at bay. We re seeing more and more robust encryption being deployed because attacks are becoming more and more sophisticated. And you can blame the Governments (including the US) for that. When Google found out the NSA was tapping into their intra-server communications just because they could they sped up the deployment of strong crypto on these pipes. So, as to answer you, when you have people like China (and the US) meddling everywhere, no lock is overkill enough.

Anonymous UK Citizen #4849475729474 says:

Re: cough

Here on Surveillance Island, we all used to have wooden doors incorporating a mortice lock and perhaps having a supplementary Yale-type lock.

Well-placed application of sufficient force can bust open such a door. The police know it, and they have a heavy metal battering ram for quick entry.

Unfortunately, burglars know it too. So, people now generally install uPVC doors incorporating a more comprehensive locking mechanism which latches at multiple points. The nature of the material – it flexes much more than wood – also means that the force of an impact is dispersed somewhat. So the modern door is much more resistant to a literal brute force attack.

So it’s a lot harder for burglars to get in – they tend to seek out other methods of entry (it’s possibly also why organised criminals lean towards cybercrime these days).

But it’s also harder for police to get in. Said doors have been known to withstand more than twenty strikes of the battering ram.
This can cause them problems in (for example) a drugs bust; occupants of the house will likely be woken by the repeated banging, and they may have a chance to flush some of the gear down the toilet.
(But in all likelihood, there will be plenty of other evidence to secure a conviction)

So, I guess it depends what you want. Do you want easy access for everyone – good and bad – or do you want better protection from criminals?

Those are your choices.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: cough

In the digital world it is a boolean. You have a secure lock or no lock.

Not really, you have a lock that’s secure enough against the attacks you’re anticipating, or not. For example, some forms of encryption were adequate for most purposes 20 years ago, but would not be sufficient now due to advances in computing power. Similarly, something that’s good enough to protect your connection to your bank’s web site might not be good enough to protect stored files against a powerful national government.

Peter Venkman says:

Re: cough

what are you trying to say? Encryption is pointless if its doesnt actually work.

Are you suggesting it would be better to just pretend encryption is there, like instead of a real functional lock on the door… we should have a door with a picture of a lock on it, that doesn’t actually work? Do you mean that we shouldnt have a “level of encryption” to the point where the encryption actually works? That services transmitting our personal information, bank information and health information, should pretend its encrypted but should not actually encrypt it?

Maybe you don’t understand the technology… I’ve re-read your comment a few times and not sure what you are even trying to communicate here

aldestrawk (profile) says:

from the dog and pony show, uuh, press conference

Moore the DA for Baton Rouge explains:

“The lifeblood of the criminal justice system has always been witness testimony. Now however, with witness intimidation, the cell phone data mine from these phones of victims, witnesses, and criminals, the cellphone now, and its data, have become our lifeblood.”

So, Mike, it is unfair of you to say that the police fail to do their jobs when, as DA Moore explain, witness intimidation has become so rampant that cellphone data must now take its place.

nasch (profile) says:

Punctuation

I couldn’t find any — outside of those from the DA’s office and various law enforcement people that were actually supportive of the campaign.

This is missing some important punctuation. It should be “I couldn’t find any — outside of those from the DA’s office and various law enforcement people — that were actually supportive of the campaign.” Without it, “that were actually supportive of the campaign” could apply to either the tweets or the “various law enforcement people”, and if it were the latter the sentence wouldn’t make any sense.

AnonymousNotACowardJustSmartEnoughNotToCave says:

Citizens are fed up... Time to Fire the Lot of em.

It’s time to simply say what needs to be the outcome of these types of officials focusing on making their jobs easier at the cost to every person on the planet… Fire Em!

e.g.

From Sascha Meinrath Director of X-Lab and the Palmer Chair in Telecommunication at Penn State University.

“the draft bill, leaked two weeks ago and now officially released, is compelling evidence that Senate leadership should strip – or at least not reappoint – Senators Burr and Feinstein of their positions on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.”

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Passcode/Passcode-Voices/2016/0419/Opinion-Burr-Feinstein-antiencryption-bill-a-firing-offense

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