Image Source: Wall Street Journal, Kristoffer Tripplaar / POOL – US President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the National Cyber Security & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) in Arlington, Virginia, USA, 13 January 2015.
World leaders are not happy with the decision of major social applications companies as they have started encrypting their messages and provide users with a safe and hack free environment. In the second week of last month, David Cameron, the British Prime Minister demanded applications like WhatsApp and Snapchat to remove encryption messaging from their systems or install a backdoor that will allow government agencies to have access.
In a press conference with David Cameron on Friday, United States President, Barack Obama agreed with his British friend that installing a back door is necessary and the absence of back door is a problem.
“Police and spies should not be locked out of encrypted smart phones and messaging apps. Social media and the internet is the primary way in which these terrorist organizations are communicating. That is not different from anybody else, but they are good at it. And when we have the ability to track that in a way that is legal, conforms to due process, rule of law and presents oversight, then that is a capability that we have to preserve. ” President Barack Obama stated.
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Governments in the United States have had the long fringe benefit of being able to access the private information of electronic communication devices, including and not limited to cell phones, private emails, social media etc. They have been doing this through wiretaps and other private companies that create and provide hardware and software for such activities.
“If we find evidence of a terrorist plot and despite having a phone number, despite having a social media address or email address, we can’t penetrate that, that’s a problem,” Obama said. He said he believes Silicon Valley companies also want to solve the problem. “They are patriots”, he added.
The US President stopped in joining British Prime Minister David Cameron in the call for a legislation that would allow the ban of services that do not build in a way for the government to spy on their public.Instead, he said that the laws that might have been designed for the traditional wiretapping have to be updated. How we do that needs to be debated both here in the United States and in the United Kingdom.
Image Source: Getty Images/Photograph: Ulrich Baumgarten/U. Baumgarten – In this photo illustration, the logos of intelligence agencies NSA (National Security Agency, US); BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst, Germany): GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters, UK); and DGSE (Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure, France) are displayed on folders.
However, the UK security services have given a blueprint and laid down an advance counter terror art of discourse against the US’ internet companies. In November 2014, the head from the Government Communications Headquarters spy agency made an open request to the US internet based companies to cooperate with the agency and hand over data on users whenever a request is made by the UK intel agencies.
To which David Cameron added, “The British spy agencies cannot tackle these challenges of – terrorist use of digital services – without greater support from the private sector, including and not limited to the largest technology companies in the United States which dominate the web.”
The British Prime Minister also pointed fingers at Facebook for not doing more to help the British security services to prevent a terror attack in London in 2013 due to which many lives were left scared. The fact that there had been multiple intelligence failures by these government based intel organizations was highlighted over the meeting stating that this all happened because there was not more user data available.
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The same story is also revolving around the US based security organizations. For instance Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been criticizing internet based companies. Specifically after Apple, Google, WhatsApp, Snapchat and other companies have strongly upgraded their encryption system. The Director of FBI furiously said that they are seeing more and more cases where they believe significant evidence is no that phone or a laptop, but we are unable to crack the password, which is why they blame these encryptions.
Brian Duggan from Slate Magazine, “Creating a back door in softwares is like creating a lock to which multiple people hold the keys. The more people who have a key or keys, the higher the likelihood that one will get lost.”
When one looks at it, it does not sound absurd that the government should have a way to intercept electronic communications in rare cases to “stop suspected terrorist plantings or attacks.” As the Economist says, supporting backdoor policy that every previous version of communication like from conversations to letters and phone has been open to some form of secret listening or interceptions.
Adding to which security experts say that back doors will be exploited for wicked purposes. This temperament will not be limited to government but other hackers that will have access to surveillance powers. Or simply the back doors; once exploited will make it easy for black hat hackers to compromise people’s privacy. “There is no back door that only lets good guys go through it,” Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow argues.
Image Source: Getty Images/Photo by Mark Wilson – Obama thinks the government should be able to reach into the Snapchats and iMessages of suspected terrorists.
Graham, who has had a fifteen year career with the National Security Agency says, “It was about building a partnership between private companies and government; about how to have those conversations. So that when we take someone who is peaceful to do harm, how does encryption work?”
The US President says he understand the fact and the needs to balance the security issues with privacy. The biggest problem is that we have seen Snowden leaks, the government officials, intelligence officers and contractors that are entrusted with the safe keeping and finding that balances tend to be more concerned with themselves than the others.
Christopher Soghoian-a principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union argues by saying, “How in the same speech can you talk about taking steps to improve cyber security and complain about encryption. Obama must choose between competing priorities such as security of private information, or the ability of law enforcement to gather intelligence.”