White House Cyber Security Boss Also Wants Encryption Backdoors He Refuses To Call Backdoors

from the torturing-words dept

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein recently pitched a new form of backdoor for encryption: "responsible encryption." The DAG said encryption was very, very important to the security of the nation and its citizens, but not so important it should ever prevent warrants from being executed.

According to Rosenstein, this is the first time in American history law enforcement officers haven't been able to collect all the evidence they seek with warrants. And that's all the fault of tech companies and their perverse interest in profits. Rosenstein thinks the smart people building flying cars or whatever should be able to make secure backdoors, but even if they can't, maybe they could just leave the encryption off their end of the end-to-end so cops can have a look-see.

This is the furtherance of former FBI director James Comey's "going dark" dogma. It's being practiced by more government agencies than just the DOJ. Calls for backdoors echo across Europe, with every government official making them claiming they're not talking about backdoors. These officials all want the same thing: a hole in encryption. All that's really happening is the development of new euphemisms.

Rob Joyce, the White House cybersecurity coordinator, is the latest to suggest the creation of encryption backdoors -- and the latest to claim the backdoor he describes is not a backdoor. During a Q&A at Cyber Summit 2017, Joyce said this:

[Encryption is] "definitely good for America, it's good for business, it's good for individuals," Joyce said. "So it's really important that we have strong encryption and that's available."

Every pitch against secure encryption begins exactly like this: a government official professing their undying appreciation for security. And like every other pitch, the undying appreciation is swiftly smothered by follow-up statements specifying which kinds of security they like.

"The other side of that is there are some evil people in this world, and the rule of law needs to proceed, and so what we're asking for is for companies to consider how they can support legal needs for information. Things that come from a judicial order, how can they be responsive to that, and if companies consider from the outset of building a platform or building a capability how they're going to respond to those inevitable asks from a judge's order, we'll be in a better place."

In other words, Joyce loves the security encrypted devices provide. But he'd love them more if they weren't quite so encrypted. Perhaps if the manufacturers held the keys… The same goes for encrypted communications. Wonderful stuff. Unless the government has a warrant. Then it should be allowed to use its golden key or backdoor or whatever to gain access.

Once again, a government official asks for a built-in backdoor, but doesn't have the intellectual honesty to describe it as such, nor the integrity to take ownership of the collateral damage. Neither the White House nor Congress seem interested in encryption bans or mandated backdoors. The officials talking about the "going dark" problem keep hinting tech companies should just weaken security for the greater good -- with the "greater good" apparently benefiting only government agencies.

This way, when everything goes to hell, officials can wash their hands of the collateral blood because there's no mandate or legislation tech companies can point to as demanding they acquiesce to the government's desires. Officials like Joyce and Rosenstein want all of the access, but none of the responsibility. And every single person offering these arguments think the smart guys should do all the work and carry 100% of the culpability. Beyond being stupid, these arguments are disingenuous and dangerous. And no one making them seems to show the slightest bit of self-awareness.

Filed Under: cybersecurity, doj, responsible encryption, rob joyce, rod rosenstein

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Oct 2017 @ 1:45pm

    So you think smoking does not cause cancer - got it.

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