ISIS's Encrypted Messaging App Isn't Real; But Backdooring Encryption Still Won't Help The NSA

from the be-real dept

So we recently reported on a claim that ISIS had been spotted making use of their very own encrypted messaging app, and highlighting how totally useless US laws requiring tech companies to backdoor encryption would be in that situation. However, it turns out that we should have been a lot more skeptical of the original report, coming from a single sourced security company. Over the years, we've learned that single-sourced security company claims are often highly suspect, and designed much more to get attention or increase FUD, than based on any real issue. The good folks over at Daily Dot are now reporting that this encrypted messaging app doesn't really appear to exist, and their investigation is pretty thorough and fairly convincing. Just like the claims that ISIS had a "training manual for encryption," this claim appears to be false.

That said, it still doesn't mean that ISIS is actually relying on encrypted apps that would be opened up by a US legal change requiring encryption backdoors. As we noted in our last post, research from the Open Technology Institute showed that almost all the popular encrypted communications app that were named as being used by ISIS were either open source or not maintained by a US company, meaning any such law would be basically meaningless to ISIS folks trying to communicate.
And given the open source nature of many of those apps, it wouldn't be surprising at all to find out that, eventually, someone forks an existing project to create a separate one relied on by ISIS. And none of that would be impacted by US laws anyway. So the only impact would be on weakening the safety and security of Americans who rely on encryption every day to keep themselves safe.

Filed Under: backdoors, encryption, going dark, isis, messaging


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  1. icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 29 Jan 2016 @ 1:18pm

    It's not about deserve.

    Maybe it's because I'm more respectful than they are.

    To be fair, at the government level respect is commanded not by gentle regard (or crimes against humanity) but by brute force, and they do seem to be holding territory despite our efforts to depose them.

    And the US continues a drone strike program in at least two theaters that annihilates civilians at a greater rate than gun fatalities in the US, and we continue to detain and torture people without due process. So our own record of humane treatment and war crimes is direly lacking as well.

    The US doesn't have the moral high ground, and we can't really say that the US is even pushing for a more egalitarian system anymore, they're just more subject to pressure.

    So yeah, what members of the Islamic State might do to my family is not very relevant. What the US would do to my family (were I on the other side) is pretty bad.

    And as I noted, my point is not that either one has a derisible name, but that they both engage in derisible behavior. Both really shitty when it comes to confining the devastation and massacre from their conflict to just belligerent forces. In fact both sides seem eager to make a big mess that affects everyone.

    I think that if I point that out without mocking them in the meantime, it keeps the focus on aforementioned mess.

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