Author of Be Ready for Anything and Bloom Where You’re Planted online course
If you ever use the encrypted messaging options on programs like iMessage, WhatsApp, Signal, Wickr, Telegram, or any other service, your time to discuss things privately over the phone may be running out. The US government doesn’t like for anything to get in the way of their ability to
spy on investigate even the most mundane of conversations.
Instead of seeing privacy as a right, they see it as suspicious. Your devices are already being searched at quadruple the previous rate in airports. And the attack on free speech is now going as far as our private messages to our friends and family.
Because the only reason we’d want privacy is that we’re criminals
This was the topic of a National Security meeting last week.
The encryption challenge, which the government calls “going dark,” was the focus of a National Security Council meeting Wednesday morning that included the No. 2 officials from several key agencies, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Senior officials debated whether to ask Congress to effectively outlaw end-to-end encryption, which scrambles data so that only its sender and recipient can read it, these people told POLITICO. Tech companies like Apple, Google and Facebook have increasingly built end-to-end encryption into their products and software in recent years — billing it as a privacy and security feature but frustrating authorities investigating terrorism, drug trafficking and child pornography. (source)
So, which government agencies are hot to make encrypted messages illegal?
The DOJ and the FBI argue that catching criminals and terrorists should be the top priority, even if watered-down encryption creates hacking risks. The Commerce and State Departments disagree, pointing to the economic, security and diplomatic consequences of mandating encryption “backdoors.”
DHS is internally divided. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency knows the importance of encrypting sensitive data, especially in critical infrastructure operations, but ICE and the Secret Service regularly run into encryption roadblocks during their investigations. (source)
It looks like the simpler answer is the few who understand there are reasonable, non-criminal uses.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons we might want to encrypt our conversations.
Of course, we know there are dozens of reasons we might want to use the encryption function on our favorite messaging apps. For example, when I was recently traveling in Europe, I needed to give my daughter credit card information to pay a bill for me. I used the encryption function on Telegram to send it because who wants that out there floating around?
Indeed, there are many legitimate reasons to use end-to-end encryption.
A ban on end-to-end-encryption would make it easier for law enforcement and intelligence agents to access suspects’ data. But such a measure would also make it easier for hackers and spies to steal Americans’ private data, by creating loopholes in encryption that are designed for the government but accessible to anyone who reverse-engineers them. Watering down encryption would also endanger people who rely on scrambled communications to hide from stalkers and abusive ex-spouses. (source)
And…you know… maybe what you’re talking about is nobody else’s business.
And, of course, there’s the fact the unpopular speech is at great risk right now.
It would be difficult to overstate the importance of free speech, and anyone who has been paying attention knows that the Gods of the Internet have been doing their best to stifle it. They’ve purged many dissenting voices over the past year and that witch hunt shows no sign of slowing down soon, particularly with the next presidential election coming up.
China is a perfect example of why we need to be able to access encryption. Joel Wallenstrom, the CEO of uber-secure messaging platform Wickr, spoke to Zac Doffman of Forbes.
In his view, “lines in the sand” and “folded arms” on the part of governments need to be avoided, with China, North Korea and Iran “not the countries we want to emulate as far as technology is concerned.”
The example of WeChat in China is especially relevant, where the authorities monitor message traffic on a fairly open basis, with immediate sanctions for misbehavior.
As the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square approached, it was reported that WeChat users found “keywords or pictures related to the event have been almost instantaneously deleted, with their posters sometimes summarily blocked. On the days of the anniversary itself, users were not even able to change their avatars.”
And there were many similar stories from the recent public protests in Hong Kong. (source)
We’ve all heard stories about social media shadow banning certain activists or articles. Imagine if they could also shadow ban your private conversations.
Governments have suggested a “ghost protocol” and tech companies have declined.
The government really, really wants to be able to access your private conversations and have suggested that tech companies create a sneaky little back door to do so if encryption isn’t outright banned.
Earlier this month, a coalition of technology companies, privacy experts and human rights groups published an open response to a discussion document from U.K. spy agency GCHQ that suggested the idea of a ghost protocol to enable “an extra end” in end-to-end encrypted messaging, allowing governments (when required) to listen in.
The response from the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Google and WhatsApp was blunt: “It would undermine the authentication process… introduce potential unintentional vulnerabilities, increase risks that communications systems could be abused or misused… It will not matter that conversations are protected by encryption. Communications will not be secure.”
“The ghost protocol idea has been proven over and over to be unsustainable,” Wallenstrom told me. “Deciding who gets access to this kind of [intercept] technology means we’re in the business of determining who’s good and who’s bad.” He also pointed out that removing privacy protections opens up content so the platforms themselves can “go snooping through user data.” (source)
The Center for Strategic International Studies has a 50-page report on the downside of banishing end-to-end encryption for everyday users. They point out that China and Russia already “use a wide range of techniques to ensure they maintain access to data and communications.” But according to their report, this would have little to no effect on terrorists, who distrust Western encryption anyway and rely on burner phones, couriers, and codes when they want to evade surveillance.
From the report:
This reminds me of that quote by Cardinal Richelieu, who said in the 1600s, “If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.”
If you don’t have anything to hide…
Really, I think this is just another attack on personal privacy which will lead to a crackdown on dissenting opinions. But ignorant, fearful people will say “If you don’t have anything to hide, you don’t have anything to worry about.”
We always have something to worry about from those who wish to limit privacy. Always.
Do you use any type of encryption messaging? Do you believe we should have the right to use encryption to protect private conversations? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Yeah it’s a double edged sword. I live on both sides of the coin on this. I lean towards The People on it though. It’s very frustrating as a LEO when trying to deal with the scum who exploit kids, plan terrorism, runs gangs etc. At the same time the though .gov forces us who work in the business to encrypt data that contains SSNs etc. so it’s not a bad idea to help keep your data safe.
I don’t normally encrypt and don’t have a regular service because my life is just pretty boring once I hit the house.
The only thing I can say is make sure you contact your politicians.
What’s the point? The system can’t deal with the criminals it has now. The justice system just slaps the hands anyway. Nobody but repeat murderers do any real time. And the more criminals that are pushed into the system the lighter the sentences have to be, out of necessity due to overcrowding – and that will never be resolved due to increasing budget constraints.
Unfortunately, the way the tech companies are de-platforming and censoring conservatives with the tacit approval of the government, we are slowly migrating to totalitarianism. Once the government and it’s tech lackeys can start reading and blocking your private communications, it’s all over.
I’d rather have encryption with the knowledge that some criminals are going to escape ‘justice’, or whatever that watered down term means these days.
Daisy, this kind of stuff creeps me out. I recently found out my landlord is considering putting my house on the market & I may have to move. I care for my disabled son & moving is quite an ordeal. I talked to each of my daughters that evening by phone. No facebooking or texting, just phone conversations. By the next morning I was receiving non-stop ads on facebook from property management companies, some even calling me by name! I know I’m naive about a lot of this but WTF? I’m in my 70s & I’m afraid this world has swallowed me!
“You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide.” ~ Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Minister and primary architect of the program to exterminate the Jews
rontruth 2 foot words for government means Kind [email protected]
The 2 root words for government means Mind Control Screw The American Empire! Control Freaks!
The more any government wants to clamp down on something it is usually because it feels threatened. When a government feels threatened it will pull out all the stops to keep any opposition from gaining a foot hold.
We like to call it “government”, but the truth is that governments are run by sociopathic people who after being elected tend to forget who they work for, and as such look for ways to keep the electorate from becoming heard when it might threaten their cushy jobs.
To prove my point we have the likes of these morons; Nancy Pelosi – Maxine Waters – Diane Not-so-fine-stein, and the moron Hank Johnson who obviously under the influence of drugs mentioned in front of Congress that he thought the island of Guam would flip over if we put any more bombers there.
Neither nut bags nor lawyers should be allowed to become an elected official because the former does not understand the issues nor the problems that face America and the latter wants to try and manipulate the issues to suit their personal agenda regardless of what the public wants or needs. SUCH AS A GD BORDER WALL !!!
Isn’t this most likely a dog and pony show? The level of consolidation between the real govt and the corporations has already reached the point where the eavesdropping access that apple, intel and other manufacturers have certainly already built into their encrypted comm software is being routinely shared among all interested parties. The purpose of this PR is to convince the public that such eavesdropping doesn’t already exist.
I don’t buy it.
Hmm, according to LG (Life’s Good) they have all perimeters covered, that was 10 yrs ago!
Nothing goes on in the average home they don’t know about! Shoot, ask Elisha (or what ever it’s name is)
Note; this should (literally) piss anyone off – It’s not there business – Only God Almighty has the Right But, Lucie is the great (upside down) impostor! 5G along with AI will be the doom of all mankind, O Yes!
We encrypt for our private security, just as the govt. says on a need to know bases for national security, when you show us yours, we will trust you enough to show you ours.
That which you attribute to Richelieu is in fact, due to the works of the historian Françoise Bertaut de Motteville who started writing after the death of Richelieu and who reported what others who had personally known Richelieu had reported. In fact, it was 2 lines and not 6 that was required to hang a completely honest man.
The logical thing to do is:
1) Conduct as many conversations as possible face to face, in a secure location.
2) If you need to travel and don’t want certain information floating around the internet or over the phone, set up innocuous code phrases that stand in for the actual message. For example, “I learned how to say “How much for the blueberry muffins in French” might mean “The local cops are watching everyone and there are checkpoints at every intersection”.
3) Assume that all of your conversations are being monitored, especially over the phone or in a public place.
4) Practice op-sec always. Keep every bit of information on a need to know basis.
5) If you believe you are being actively monitored, be as boring and “normal” as possible. Make the Cleavers from “Leave it to Beaver” look like bomb- throwing radicals.
If anyone else has some suggestions, I’d love to hear them.
HAHAHA,This is going to END badly for every government employee who can be found durning the coming WAR in america,and there won’t be anywhere they can hide,they’ll have the citizens searching for them,and the Russians and chinese military..they won’t get away…..BUT the good news is their to stupid to know it…..
You can do that in other countries (take away their encryption) but NOT in America. Those other countries are all socialist and communist run by thugs and tyrants.
America is to be the land of the FREE. The shining city on the hill, the beacon of hope to the world. We are the last bastion of freedom.
If we go down the world will enter another age of darkness and depravity. This is what Democraps want for you and the world.
Humans in chains and enslaved while they go free.
The solution seems to be to not use these services, but do the encryption yourself with GPG4USB. This is an app which does nothing but encrypt/decrypt messages, the results of which can be copy-pasted into normal messaging apps or web pages.
It relies on your computer keeping the Private Key private, so relies on a very secure Operating System, Linux , NOT Android or Micro$oft Windows.
I prefer a more low-tech version, like a home made encryption wheel, simply because whatever is in any computer program is accessible to the owners of the program.
We’re not sending the nuclear codes to eachother, we just want a little privacy to send a credit card number or messages of an intimate nature to our beloved.
Isn’t it too bad that privacy is a thing of the past.
It relies . . . on a very secure Operating System, Linux , NOT Android or Micro$oft Windows.
Android is a _LINUX_ distribution. It was _forked_ from the main Linux kernel several years ago, when Google needed an O/S for smartphones. I refer to it as “Android Linux,” in the same way that people say, for example, “Ubuntu Linux” or “Red Hat Linux.”
Google put a back door into Android so that it reports back to Google everywhere the Android device has gone. That’s true even of an Android device where the GPS has been turned off and it has no SIM card installed—the moment the Android device is connected to WiFi, it sends the data. As a result, I consider Android the least secure phone OS on the market.
Phones are now powerful enough that they can run Redhat, Ubuntu, at least Raspbian or other regular distributions of Linux. I’d far prefer running Linux instead of Android on a phone.
If you have nothing to hide, why are you wearing clothes? Why do you lock the doors to your house when you’re away? Why do you hide your PIN when at an ATM? Why, why, why do you hide things?
We all have things to hide and good reasons for that. It has nothing to do with us doing something illegal. In fact, it’s illegal not to hide certain things, e.g. illegal to go naked in public.
As long as we are doing nothing illegal, the government has no business snooping into our private affairs. Especially when government workers are often illegally hiding their illegal actions—even from Congress, let alone from “we the people”. The corruption extends all the way from the top all the way down to the local city hall. And they’ll use the most innocent things to hang us, if they think that we are a threat to their power. Or sometimes dispense with legalities, and simply murder us.
The government doesn’t need a backdoor on encryption to go after criminals. If government crackers can take down websites selling illegal goods on the darkweb and track the customers of those illegal goods which include child porn, even with strong encryption in place, why endanger innocent people by taking away their privacy?
The good news, Daisy, is that government thugs can’t win this one. They can stamp their little feet and scream (just as they’re doing in the meeting referenced here), but they can’t enforce broken encryption on anyone. As a last resort, people can employ steganography, which conceals information inside a music or image file and also conceals that anything is being concealed. They’d have to stop the transmission of any such files (or pretty much any large file) to prevent this.