Difference between revisions of "Encryption backdoor for law enforcement"

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Revision as of 11:23, 11 December 2019

Encryption backdoor for law enforcement is the belief that all forms of encryption should made with a backdoor for law enforcement so they can easily defeat the encryption. The justification is that it would help catch criminals who are currently using encryption to shield themselves law enforcement.

Many different arguments are made to support this position, but each form is based upon a single belief: the duty of law enforcement to protect the law is more important than the right people have to protect themselves.

Arguments In Favor

We need a backdoor to capture criminals

This is certainly the most popular argument, and it's pretty effective because it preys on everyone's base fears. The arguer will describe how sex traffickers and child pornographers are using encryption to setup criminal empires and how police are powerless to stop them because they encrypt all their transactions.

If you liken this to a safe, it's like arguing that every lock should have a two keyholes. The first is given to the owner, the second is kept by law enforcement. At any time, with just cause, law enforcement can use their key to unlock your lock. Of course, this raises all sorts of red flags. How do you guarantee law enforcement doesn't abuse their power? You can't. There are thousands of cases of agents of the law abusing their power and robbing, raping, and murdering innocent people. How do you guarantee only law enforcement ever has access to those keys? You can't. And the moment a criminal makes a copy of the master key, they immediately have the ability to open every lock in the world!

The reality is, backdoors inadvertently increase crime. The moment someone discovered how to exploit them, and someone always does, they have free reign to go on a crime spree that is often not even traceable because they appear to be using an official point of entry.

No vault is above the law

This argument compares encrypted data to a vault or personal safe. With probable cause, law enforcement can get a warrant to search any vault. Therefore, if a person has encrypted data, and law enforcement is issued a warrant, they should be allowed to search the data.

This argument fails for encryption for the same reason it fails for vaults. If the owner of the vault refuses to open the vault for them, law enforcement is hindered. They can punish the owner in an attempt to compel them to open it, but if they claim they've lost they key or forgotten the combination, it won't do them any good. The only recourse is trying to break into the vault, but if the vault is so well constructed that requires a lot of time and money to break into it, law enforcement is stuck. Likewise with encryption, the owner of the encrypted file can refuse to decrypt it claiming they forgot the password, at which point, law enforcement must spend the time and money necessary to crack the encryption.

Arguments Against

Backdoors hurt security

Those who argue encryption needs a backdoor don't understand what they're asking for. Their demand is that encryption continue to be just as powerful to keep out criminals, but simply have a backdoor for law enforcement. This is impossible. Which is more secure. a house with thick concrete walls and a single door or a house with thick concrete walls, two doors, three windows, and a chimney? When it comes to security, the more points of entry that exist, the worse the security.

Governments rely on strong encryption to keep their state secrets protected, companies rely on strong security to keep their financial details protected, individuals rely on strong security to keep their private lives protected. Adding a backdoor makes you more vulnerable to spies, thieves, and abusers.

A backdoor ruins a company

In the past, companies have suffered huge losses when backdoors were discovered in their products. This is always done in secret, after all, who would buy a product with a known vulnerability, but the secrets always get out, and, when they do, the companies suffer greatly. Companies like D-Link, Tenda, Medialink, and Huawei all sold networking hardware with backdoors and have all seen massive financial losses after their discoveries.