Tuesday, February 02, 2016

They are deadly serious about crypto backdoors

Julian Sanchez (@normative) has an article questioning whether the FBI is serious about pushing crypto backdoors, or whether this is all a ploy pressuring companies like Apple to give them access. I think they are serious -- deadly serious.

The reason they are only half-heartedly pushing backdoors at the moment is that they believe we, the opposition, aren't serious about the issue. After all, the 4rth Amendment says that a "warrant of probable cause" gives law enforcement unlimited power to invade our privacy. Since the constitution is on their side, only irrelevant hippies could ever disagree. There is no serious opposition to the proposition. It'll all work itself out in the FBI's favor eventually. Among the fascist class of politicians, like the Dianne Feinsteins and Lindsay Grahams of the world, belief in this principle is rock solid. They have absolutely no doubt.

But the opposition is deadly serious. By "deadly" I mean this is an issue we are willing to take up arms over. If congress were to pass a law outlawing strong crypto, I'd move to a non-extradition country, declare the revolution, and start working to bring down the government. You think the "Anonymous" hackers were bad, but you've seen nothing compared to what the tech community would do if encryption were outlawed.

On most policy questions, there are two sides to the debate, where reasonable people disagree. Crypto backdoors isn't that type of policy question. It's equivalent to techies what trying to ban guns would be to the NRA.

So the FBI trundles along, as if the opposition were hippies instead of ardent revolutionaries.

Eventually, though, things will come to a head where the FBI pushes forward. There will eventually be another major terrorist attack in the United States, and the terrorist will have been using encrypted communications. At that point, we are going to see the deadly seriousness of the FBI on the issue, and the deadly seriousness of the opposition. And by "deadly" I mean exactly that -- violence and people getting killed.

Julian Sanchez is probably right that at this point, the FBI isn't pushing too hard, and is willing to just pressure companies to get what they want (recovered messages from iCloud backups), and to give populist activists like the EFF easy wins (avoiding full backdoors) to take the pressure off. But in the long run, I believe this issue will become violent.


George said...

Don't think we'll see info sec pros forming a militia and attacking federal government forces. Doesn't make sense to me anyways, like where are they going to get their paramilitary training and out-of-the-office exercise?

Gregg said...

It won't go down that way. We know more than enough about how to screw with someone's technology in lethal ways - and we're creative...and we're already inside the FBI, and they rely on us to operate. Oh, it'll be violent...just not in any conventional way.