Difference between revisions of "Encryption backdoor for law enforcement"

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'''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.
 
'''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.
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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. Below I try to address the various issues around this topic.
  
==Arguments In Favor==
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==Issues==
===We need a backdoor to capture criminals===
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===Why do people use encryption in the first place?===
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.
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There is a common saying used by people who want to take away the privacy of others, "you don't have to worry if you have nothing to hide." These people often see the use of encryption as an indication someone is doing something illegal. The reality is, encryption is a tool, and like any tool, it can be used for good or evil, but the vast majority of people who use encryption employ it for good, protecting their financial information and their private lives.
  
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!
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Any person who wants to protect their assets should be using encryption on all their financial transactions so criminals can't rob them. Parents who have a baby monitor should encrypt the video stream so creeps can't watch them. Anyone who keeps a private diary or journal should encrypt them so blackmailers can't read them. Any couples who take explicit photos of each other should encrypt them so perverts can't look at them. Any government that wants to keep their state secrets out of the hands of their enemies should encrypt them. There are thousands of legitimate uses for strong encryption, and how they will be affected by backdoors should be considered.
  
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.
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===Does law enforcement need an encryption backdoor to catch criminals?===
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Advocates of this belief often prey on everyone's base fears and argue that sex traffickers and child pornographers are running criminal empires and the police are powerless to stop them because they encrypt all their transactions.
  
===No vault is above the law===
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These stories are widely blown out of proportion. Even the most sophisticated of encrypted contraband marketplaces like [[Wikipedia:Silk Road (marketplace)|Silk Road]] and [[Wikipedia:Sheep Marketplace|Sheep Marketplace]] are shut down shortly after becoming popular, and their owners and many people who used them are discovered and brought to justice. These arrests almost always occur without law enforcement breaking encryption, but rather by tracing money, phone calls, network traffic, and various other conventional investigative means.
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.
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===Backdoors intrinsically weaken security===
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Which is more secure, a room with one door or an otherwise identical room with two doors? Obviously, the room with only one door is more secure because it has fewer points of entry that need to be protected. This is a fundamental aspect of security that can't be rectified. Anyone who claims that encryption can be kept just as strong even after adding a backdoor is either lying or doesn't understand basic security theory.
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Adding a backdoor to encryption makes everyone more more vulnerable, especially if it's publicly declared. If everyone knows the backdoor exists, they will try even harder to find it, and when they do, everything becomes compromised. Though inadvertently, backdoors probably increase the amount of crime by making it so much easier for criminals to get access to sensitive information and use it to rob, defraud, and blackmail innocent people.
  
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.
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In fact, the US government already tried this in the past with disastrous results. Through the NSA, the [[Wikipedia:Clipper chip|Clipper chip]] was created which contained a private form of encryption with a backdoor that could be accessed by the NSA. The US government tried to force phone manufacturers to use it, but most balked at their demands, which was a wise decision because cryptographers quickly discovered flaws in the chip and were able to hack it. Everyone who owned a phone with the flawed government chips became vulnerable.
  
==Arguments Against==
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Those who demand a backdoor are essentially arguing that weakened encryption must be viewed as an acceptable loss in order to protect people from crime.
===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.
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===Backdoors ruin trust===
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Consumers lose trust in products with backdoors for two reasons. The first is they understand that backdoors can be used by bad agents just as easily as good agents. Second, they realize that the companies who make those products are willing to compromise the individual's security to make things easier for the company.
  
===A backdoor ruins a company===
 
 
In the past, companies have suffered huge financial losses when backdoors were discovered in their products. The backdoors are added in secret, but the secrets always get out, and, when they do, users demand refunds and refuse to buy from the companies ever again. Communication companies like [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D-Link#Vulnerabilities D-Link], [https://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/10/28/tenda_bricksup_router_backdoor Tenda and Medialink], and [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Huawei Huawei] have all sold communication hardware with backdoors, and, when they were discovered, each saw massive financial losses and pledged to eliminate the backdoors.
 
In the past, companies have suffered huge financial losses when backdoors were discovered in their products. The backdoors are added in secret, but the secrets always get out, and, when they do, users demand refunds and refuse to buy from the companies ever again. Communication companies like [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D-Link#Vulnerabilities D-Link], [https://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/10/28/tenda_bricksup_router_backdoor Tenda and Medialink], and [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Huawei Huawei] have all sold communication hardware with backdoors, and, when they were discovered, each saw massive financial losses and pledged to eliminate the backdoors.
  
Consumers lose trust in products with backdoors for two reasons. The first is they understand that backdoors can be used by people with ill intentions just as easily as they can be used by people with good intentions. Second, they realize that the companies who make those products do not have their individual security needs in mind.
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===Can law enforcement be trusted not to abuse the backdoor?===
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Every so often a whistleblower reveals another abuse of power by law enforcement. At the federal level, dozens of [Global surveillance disclosures (2013–present)|mass surveillance programs] have been instituted by governments often against their own citizens, but many more occur at state and municipality levels. These frequently result in police officers abusing their power to spy on, blackmail, and rape innocent people. Adding a backdoor to encryption would make things even easier for them to abuse their power.
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===Strong encryption already exists everywhere===
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Strong encryption that is free of backdoors already exists. Moreover, detailed instructions for its use is freely available in books and online, you can even download free open source software which uses it, and newer even stronger encryption will be thought up in the future. At this point, the only way to force weakened backdoor encryption would be to criminalize the entire concept of non-compliant encryption. Of course, since no other nation would comply with such a backward law, information, source code, and programs will remain freely available everywhere else in the world.
  
===Strong encryption already exists===
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Consider how this would affect the concept of safes. People can build their own safe, find plans for building a safe, and many people have already bought safes. If a government wanted to force safes to have a backdoor for law enforcement, it would require companies and owners to destroy every safe in existence, repurchase inferior safes, never buy a non-compliant superior safe from all the countries who still sell them, and never build a safe from existing materials.
Strong encryption that is free of backdoors already exists, moreover, detailed instructions for its use is freely available in books and online, you can even download free open source software which uses it. At this point, the only way to force weakened backdoor encryption would be to criminalize the entire concept of non-compliant encryption. Of course, since no other nation would comply with such a backward law, information, source code, and programs will remain freely available everywhere else in the world.
+
 
 +
===No vault is above the law===
 +
An argument often made by proponents of this belief 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.
  
Consider how this would affect the concept of safes. People can build their own safe, find plans for building a safe, and many people have already bought safes. If a government wanted to force safes to have a backdoor for law enforcement, it would require companies and owners to destroy every safe in existence, repurchase inferior safes, and never build another non-compliant safe or buy one from all the countries who still sell proper safes.
+
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 the owner has lost they key, it won't do them any good. The only recourse is trying to break into the vault. 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.
  
 
==Links==
 
==Links==
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* [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backdoor_(computing) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backdoor_(computing)] - Wikipedia - Backdoor.
  
  
 
[[Category: Cryptography]]
 
[[Category: Cryptography]]
 
[[Category: Law Enforcement]]
 
[[Category: Law Enforcement]]

Revision as of 16:28, 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. Below I try to address the various issues around this topic.

Issues

Why do people use encryption in the first place?

There is a common saying used by people who want to take away the privacy of others, "you don't have to worry if you have nothing to hide." These people often see the use of encryption as an indication someone is doing something illegal. The reality is, encryption is a tool, and like any tool, it can be used for good or evil, but the vast majority of people who use encryption employ it for good, protecting their financial information and their private lives.

Any person who wants to protect their assets should be using encryption on all their financial transactions so criminals can't rob them. Parents who have a baby monitor should encrypt the video stream so creeps can't watch them. Anyone who keeps a private diary or journal should encrypt them so blackmailers can't read them. Any couples who take explicit photos of each other should encrypt them so perverts can't look at them. Any government that wants to keep their state secrets out of the hands of their enemies should encrypt them. There are thousands of legitimate uses for strong encryption, and how they will be affected by backdoors should be considered.

Does law enforcement need an encryption backdoor to catch criminals?

Advocates of this belief often prey on everyone's base fears and argue that sex traffickers and child pornographers are running criminal empires and the police are powerless to stop them because they encrypt all their transactions.

These stories are widely blown out of proportion. Even the most sophisticated of encrypted contraband marketplaces like Silk Road and Sheep Marketplace are shut down shortly after becoming popular, and their owners and many people who used them are discovered and brought to justice. These arrests almost always occur without law enforcement breaking encryption, but rather by tracing money, phone calls, network traffic, and various other conventional investigative means.

Backdoors intrinsically weaken security

Which is more secure, a room with one door or an otherwise identical room with two doors? Obviously, the room with only one door is more secure because it has fewer points of entry that need to be protected. This is a fundamental aspect of security that can't be rectified. Anyone who claims that encryption can be kept just as strong even after adding a backdoor is either lying or doesn't understand basic security theory.

Adding a backdoor to encryption makes everyone more more vulnerable, especially if it's publicly declared. If everyone knows the backdoor exists, they will try even harder to find it, and when they do, everything becomes compromised. Though inadvertently, backdoors probably increase the amount of crime by making it so much easier for criminals to get access to sensitive information and use it to rob, defraud, and blackmail innocent people.

In fact, the US government already tried this in the past with disastrous results. Through the NSA, the Clipper chip was created which contained a private form of encryption with a backdoor that could be accessed by the NSA. The US government tried to force phone manufacturers to use it, but most balked at their demands, which was a wise decision because cryptographers quickly discovered flaws in the chip and were able to hack it. Everyone who owned a phone with the flawed government chips became vulnerable.

Those who demand a backdoor are essentially arguing that weakened encryption must be viewed as an acceptable loss in order to protect people from crime.

Backdoors ruin trust

Consumers lose trust in products with backdoors for two reasons. The first is they understand that backdoors can be used by bad agents just as easily as good agents. Second, they realize that the companies who make those products are willing to compromise the individual's security to make things easier for the company.

In the past, companies have suffered huge financial losses when backdoors were discovered in their products. The backdoors are added in secret, but the secrets always get out, and, when they do, users demand refunds and refuse to buy from the companies ever again. Communication companies like D-Link, Tenda and Medialink, and Huawei have all sold communication hardware with backdoors, and, when they were discovered, each saw massive financial losses and pledged to eliminate the backdoors.

Can law enforcement be trusted not to abuse the backdoor?

Every so often a whistleblower reveals another abuse of power by law enforcement. At the federal level, dozens of [Global surveillance disclosures (2013–present)|mass surveillance programs] have been instituted by governments often against their own citizens, but many more occur at state and municipality levels. These frequently result in police officers abusing their power to spy on, blackmail, and rape innocent people. Adding a backdoor to encryption would make things even easier for them to abuse their power.

Strong encryption already exists everywhere

Strong encryption that is free of backdoors already exists. Moreover, detailed instructions for its use is freely available in books and online, you can even download free open source software which uses it, and newer even stronger encryption will be thought up in the future. At this point, the only way to force weakened backdoor encryption would be to criminalize the entire concept of non-compliant encryption. Of course, since no other nation would comply with such a backward law, information, source code, and programs will remain freely available everywhere else in the world.

Consider how this would affect the concept of safes. People can build their own safe, find plans for building a safe, and many people have already bought safes. If a government wanted to force safes to have a backdoor for law enforcement, it would require companies and owners to destroy every safe in existence, repurchase inferior safes, never buy a non-compliant superior safe from all the countries who still sell them, and never build a safe from existing materials.

No vault is above the law

An argument often made by proponents of this belief 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 the owner has lost they key, it won't do them any good. The only recourse is trying to break into the vault. 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.

Links