Senator McCain Promises To Introduce Legislation To Backdoor Encryption, Make Everyone Less Safe

from the bad-ideas dept

Two months ago, the Obama administration came to the conclusion that mandating backdoors to encryption through legislation was a non-starter. They seemed to recognize that it was mostly a bad idea and (more importantly) that Congress would not approve such legislation. Almost immediately, we noted that intelligence officials (almost gleefully) noted that they really just needed to wait for the next terrorist attack to restart the campaign. Here was Robert Litt, the top lawyer in the intelligence community:
Although “the legislative environment is very hostile today,” the intelligence community’s top lawyer, Robert S. Litt, said to colleagues in an August e-mail, which was obtained by The Post, “it could turn in the event of a terrorist attack or criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement.”

There is value, he said, in “keeping our options open for such a situation.”
Given all that, it was disappointing that the Obama administration then took the cowardly way out, and refused to take an official public stance against backdooring encryption.

Either way, with the attacks in Paris last week, it almost seems like the anti-encryption crowd was somewhat gleeful in their response. Why, here was the exact terrorist attack they needed to push their agenda.

And, of course, the idea of mandated backdoors is back on the table, with Senator John McCain announcing plans to introduce just such legislation:
“In the Senate Armed Services we're going to have hearings on it and we're going to have legislation,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who chairs the committee, told reporters Tuesday, calling the status quo “unacceptable.”
Of course, that legislation was ready to go, sitting in a top drawer just waiting for this kind of situation. And now we have to waste all sorts of time responding to this idiocy even though just months ago we went through this whole debate all over again, during which it was pretty clear that backdooring encryption makes us all much less safe. It puts everyone at greater risk, not less.

So the question remains: why do officials and politicians like Senator McCain want to undermine our safety and security? And, even more bizarrely, how is this the same John McCain who was on the other side during the last crypto wars?

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  • icon
    rw (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 7:35am

    Sounds to me like the US intelligence community is directing the ISIS attacks to better enable its police state.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 8:40am

    Cricket

    A pity that you don't play Cricket in the US - if you did then you could explain that backdooring encryption is a bit like preparing a spin friendly wicket. It may mean that your bowlers can get the other team out more easily - but if you are playing against India or Pakistan it is suicide!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Brent Ashley (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 8:49am

      Re: Cricket

      Oh, it's even more dangerous with US football. The crafty coaches cover their mouths with their clipboards so the TV cameras don't see them talking to their players. They could be sending covert messages to ISIS for all we know but we've been stymied by this clever obfuscation ever since Snowden. We need to mandate and enforce transparent plexiglass clipboards for all football coaches immediately, because terror!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:03am

        Re: Re: Cricket

        ...The crafty coaches cover their mouths with their clipboards so the TV cameras don't see them talking to their players...

        Not to mention baseball & softball coaches and players using sign language! Ever wonder why the tv cameras are always trying to get the catcher's signs to the pitcher?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 10:40am

      Re: Cricket

      For those americans among us, could we get a slightly more complete explanation? :P

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JustShutUpAndObey, 18 Nov 2015 @ 8:42am

    When you don't know WHAT to do...

    Then it's best to do something stupid than to do nothing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 18 Nov 2015 @ 8:44am

    And by doing so Sen. McCain, you also will ruin online banking, banking itself, financial institutions, your own email, all stolen laptops/flashdrives with PCI and HIPAA information (can't encrypt those drives without a failed backdoor , amirite?), etc.

    McCain (and other technophobes). You - cannot - create - a - foolproof - backdoor. It WILL be broken.

    You might as well build roads that the bad guys can't use. What? You can't?! Oh my.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 8:46am

    Once the golden key is found, it's found forever.

    If McCain is okay with Russia, China or terrorists having access to his personal encrypted files or the encrypted files of the US, then by all means, put a back door in.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:28am

      Re:

      like the clipper chip and the TSA master keys?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 6:55pm

      Re:

      Oh it gets better actually. The other countries/governments wouldn't need the US golden key, they'd just use their own. Kinda hard to tell another country 'No, we will not break out security just because you want us to' when you've already done it once.

      So there wouldn't be a security vulnerability, there would be lots, and the odds of all of them staying secret for more than a week is lower than zero.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    pixelpusher220 (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 8:48am

    Snowden

    if we'd done this 10 years ago...wouldn't Snowden have been able to leak this 'golden key'? Then what?

    Obviously Snowden the actual person wouldn't have leaked the actual key but Alrich Ames certainly might have...

    When you have secrets, they WILL be revealed eventually if they are shared with anyone outside of your own mind.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    mcinsand, 18 Nov 2015 @ 8:49am

    if only we had accountability

    We need a way to prosecute any elected official that votes for such a measure when (not if) those backdoors are cracked and used against us. Anyone willing to back such legislation to criminalize weakening security would definitely get my vote. However, there's no chance of either party backing anything like secure, non-backdoored encryption.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      pixelpusher220 (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 8:58am

      Re: if only we had accountability

      "We need a way to prosecute any elected official that votes for such a measure"

      You mean like voting them out of office?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        SteveMB (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:06am

        Re: Re: if only we had accountability

        "We need a way to prosecute any elected official that votes for such a measure"

        You mean like voting them out of office?


        That suffices for mere differences of opinion. There really should be a firmer sanction for violation of the oath to uphold the Constitution.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John85851 (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 10:24am

        Re: Re: if only we had accountability

        And who's going to vote them out of office over this issue?

        Too many people still believe the idea of "if you've done nothing wrong, then you've got nothing to hide". So why should they care if there's a backdoor?

        And too many people also use insecure, public wifi because it's easy, without even thinking that their data could be stolen.

        So another hole in security isn't really that big of a deal.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 12:07pm

        Re: Re: if only we had accountability

        2 Questions:

        1. Can you vote someone out of office? (seems to me the only say in it is at elections and then it is not always possible to vote someone out, while it is always possible to vote someone in! "Voting out" is an interpretation, not an action.)

        2. How can a New Yorker vote any representative from Nebraska out? (FPTP and Geographically chosen candidates do not produce very nationally accountable candidates.)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Almost Anonymous (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 1:17pm

      Re: if only we had accountability

      There's no chance that any legislation that mandated a "golden key/backdoor" solution would not also include full and infinitely retroactive immunity from prosecution for any and all parties involved in the case of a breach and/or loss of the "golden key".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    meh, 18 Nov 2015 @ 8:49am

    V

    I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn't be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, and in your panic you turned to the now high chancellor, Adam Sutler. He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 8:50am

    so, kill all the mathematicians?

    so,
    are we going to waterboard all the Cryptography coders to get them to create the unicorn key...
    or just straight nailgun?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 8:55am

      Re: so, kill all the mathematicians?

      First, they came for the mathematicians...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Richard (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 8:59am

        Re: Re: so, kill all the mathematicians?

        Killing mathematicians won't work - because the problem is not mathematicians - it is mathematics.

        Unfortunately a way to kill mathematics has yet to be discovered.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:15am

          Re: Re: Re: so, kill all the mathematicians?

          what do you mean won't work?
          who should we kill then?

          drones then!! we can also drone foreign mathematicians?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:29am

          Re: Re: Re: so, kill all the mathematicians?

          how about mandatory math "sciences" part of the "security sciences studies"
          so next generation will not know what encryption is

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 11:19am

          Re: Re: Re: so, kill all the mathematicians?

          Unfortunately a way to kill mathematics has yet to be discovered.
          Yeah, but Kurt Godel beat the crap out of it and made it beg for its life.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:00am

        Re: Re: so, kill all the mathematicians?

        so the USA will be a math free zone.

        Only criminals will have math capabilities.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          DannyB (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 10:19am

          Re: Re: Re: so, kill all the mathematicians?

          > so the USA will be a math free zone.

          The US education system has had that goal for some time now.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 12:17pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: so, kill all the mathematicians?

            Statistics is so easy to manipulate and as soon as you start to use mathematics in reality, you realize the dependency on the initial conditions, boundary conditions and termination conditions. If you understand a field in reality and the testing methods good enough, you can manipulate math!

            Therefore math is political and should be made illegal!

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    teknosapien (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 8:51am

    Data Collection

    Data Collection has been going on for years.
    From Project Escalation to the newest Mete data gathered by the NSA. This information has been shared with allies in hopes of stopping these acts of terrorism.
    AND IT HASN'T worked
    How is back door entrance to encryption going to be a game changer.

    Maybe they should start looking at how they conduct business, rather than strip our rights and protections away one by one

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    teknosapien (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 8:51am

    Data Collection

    Data Collection has been going on for years.
    From Project Escalation to the newest Meta data gathered by the NSA. This information has been shared with allies in hopes of stopping these acts of terrorism.
    AND IT HASN'T worked
    How is back door entrance to encryption going to be a game changer.

    Maybe they should start looking at how they conduct business, rather than strip our rights and protections away one by one

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 8:54am

    "back door entrance to encryption"
    do you mean unsecure security?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 8:57am

    "McCain was more direct when asked if he would require tech companies to build a portal into their encryption for government officials.

    “Yeah, I would,” he said.

    But exactly how McCain and his allies might accomplish this is unclear."
    TORTURE??
    http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/260522-paris-revives-battle-over-data-encr yption

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 1:12pm

      Re:

      McCain is one of those douche bags who thought torture was bad when it was (supposedly) done to him. He's all for doing it to others, though.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:02am

    You know why terrorism works and keeps happening?


    Because we loose our collective fucking minds each time an attack happens.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:18am

      Re:

      YES,
      because there is a "collective mind" ...
      right???

      check your premises and try again.
      read.
      think.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Just Another Anonymous Troll, 18 Nov 2015 @ 10:55am

        Re: Re:

        ..not sure if troll or stupid. If everyone or a large portion of everyone loses their minds over something, it could be said that we have lost our collective mind. It doesn't imply that there's a hive mind.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 1:39pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "it could be said that we have lost our collective mind. It doesn't imply that there's a hive mind."

          you talk like a perfect sheep: DOUBLETHINK

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    SteveMB (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:04am

    how is this the same John McCain who was on the other side during the last crypto wars?


    Hello, boys and girls -- our vocabulary-builder Word Of The Day is "SENILITY". Can you say "senility"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 10:57am

      Re:

      Hello, boys and girls -- our vocabulary-builder Word Of The Day is "BLACKMAIL". Can you say "blackmail"?

      FTFY.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 11:25am

      Re:

      how is this the same John McCain who was on the other side during the last crypto wars?
      It's not. This is the same John McCain who said "Sarah Palin? Sure, sounds good."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Steve R. (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:07am

    Why Won't The Backdoor Concept Die?

    A so-called "backdoor" will never work. Obvious, yet the mindless repetitive chants calling for it never seem to cease. Unbelievable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:20am

      Re: Why Won't The Backdoor Concept Die?

      a.k.a.
      Clipper chip- key
      golden- key
      unicorn- key
      leprechaun/santa- key
      knight blood only- key
      pure hearth only- key
      good guys only- key

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      TasMot (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:27am

      Re: Why Won't The Backdoor Concept Die?

      how is this the same John McCain who was on the other side during the last crypto wars?


      Why Won't the Backdoor Concept Die?


      I think the answer to both of these questions is actually going to be the very old saw "Follow The Money". It would not surprise me at all to find out who is constantly putting up the money to keep pushing this agenda.

      The bad part is that the supposed bad guys they want to catch are not going to use the broken encryption. They are going to keep using the existing good encryption and create more "NOT BROKEN" encryption and use that.

      Only those US citizens forced to use the broken encryption will be exposed (to everybody in the world) and anybody with a little bit of brains will be adding their own un-broken encryption on top of the broken encryption.

      One fall-out I hope they are preparing for is the increased costs to business as people lose faith in the "non" security of online transactions and banks, stores, and government offices are going to have to start hiring a lot more workers to service the people who have to come to the store/shop/office/tellers to transact business because all of the online security will be broken.

      Good Luck with That!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        DannyB (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 10:24am

        Re: Re: Why Won't The Backdoor Concept Die?

        > Only those US citizens forced to use the broken encryption

        Please do not be so pessimistic.

        With a bit of luck the law abiding citizens of all other nations will get to use broken encryption also.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 11:30am

          Re: Re: Re: Why Won't The Backdoor Concept Die?

          There will be an addendum to the TPP: Everyone MUST use Backdoored Encryption.

          Yea, that'll work.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Almost Anonymous (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 1:28pm

      Re: Why Won't The Backdoor Concept Die?

      Quantum encryption will be even worse, for their purposes. The encrypted data cannot be "cracked" or copied without altering the actual data itself, thereby making these acts meaningless. Even though the concept has been around for a long time, it doesn't seem like these golden key guys have even heard of it.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_cryptography

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:11am

    Isn't there a well known Simpsons clip where Mr. Burns and Smithers go through multiple layers of crazy high-end security and obfuscation, only to shoo a dog out the rickety screen door at the 'secure' room?

    Maybe we should just email Senator McCain that clip.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:12am

    Senator McCain is in the pocket of the military-industrial complex, which is made up of thousands of private contractors sucking down taxpayer money and contributing some of that money back into to John McCain's campaign coffers. That's my guess.

    It's kind of like the circle of life, but replace "life" with "politics".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:13am

    What we should be talking about is why the Orwellian civil liberties trashing programs we already have in place didn't stop the attack AGAIN.

    Meanwhile we will just go ahead and make stronger crypto than ever. Choke on that Mccain

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:25am

      Re:

      "why the Orwellian civil liberties trashing programs we already have in place didn't stop the attack?"

      because that is not their function nor aim?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:36am

    Will he also insist that all letters and parcels are passed to the postal and parcel service unsealed, so that the contents can be copied and listed to the spy agencies, along with all phone call being recorded at Bluffdale. Why not pass a law enabling the police to copy all papers and electronic devices carried by a person, or held in their property, on demand?
    I mean, if he wants encryption backdoored, why not go all the way and insist that all communications by any channel can be examined by the security services at any time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jim B., 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:37am

    No evidence

    Seriously, does anyone mean to put forth the idea (since they were attempting to push for momentum in backdooring encryption) that they would have had it designed, implemented and disseminated in time to stop the Paris terrorist attack? It takes a long time. Encryption technologies are open source. Terrorists could simply take the technology modify it and use it with impunity?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:42am

    Gleeful

    Either way, with the attacks in Paris last week, it almost seems like the anti-encryption crowd was somewhat gleeful in their response.

    "he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished."

    Proverbs 17:5

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 9:49am

    Background checks required for PS4 purchases;

    Upgrades of PS4's to 'fully automatic' mode becomes a felony.

    Some cities will have 'buy back' programs to get PS4's off the street.

    We don't want to see any more kids holding game controllers killed by cops.

    Dianne Feinstein will rest easier, now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    NeghVar (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 10:09am

    These politicians are complete idiots. They have no clue of the repercussion that will result from their agendas. If such a bill would pass that requires all forms of encryption to have a government backdoor, then opensource projects would move overseas. Perhaps join SlySoft in St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda. from there, make the encryption available.
    An advantage of open source is that you can't hide backdoors in it. They will be found by others and removed

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 10:52am

      Re:

      maybe the idiots are the ones that still believe in their "authority" and follow their otders
      they cannot argue leguitimacy anymore

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Patrick, 18 Nov 2015 @ 10:57am

    One wonders if they just let some attacks happen to further their agenda.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 12:02pm

    Yeah, like people will just slow down and drive 55.

    Maybe McCain should just mandate encryption that cannot be used by terrorists and evil people.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Steve, 18 Nov 2015 @ 12:23pm

    Its all about spying

    How else would the US be able to spy on other Countries & foreign Corporations?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 12:33pm

    I wish I had a job were I could submit the same rejected garbage over and over. I could work form home!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 1:18pm

    Backdoor

    Anyone who is unclear on how this backdoor government access would work is welcome to drop their pants, bend over and let a government official demonstrate it for them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mark Wing, 18 Nov 2015 @ 1:39pm

    And when the bad guys start building their own encryption, they'll honor the mandate and put back doors in their system, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Nov 2015 @ 4:15pm

    The dinosaur wants to ban math. Good luck!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous, 18 Nov 2015 @ 5:15pm

    Obama

    "Given all that, it was disappointing that the Obama administration then took the cowardly way out, and refused to take an official public stance against backdooring encryption."


    It might actually be a smart move to take no stance; imagine this becoming a purely partisan issue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Eldakka (profile), 18 Nov 2015 @ 5:59pm

    Robert S. Litt, any relation to Lewis Litt from Suits? Sounds like the type of thing Lewis would suggest.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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