Obama administration opts to avoid mandatory decryption for law enforcement requests

Posted:
in General Discussion edited October 2015
The Obama administration will not force corporations to decrypt communications for law enforcement, FBI director James Comey announced at a U.S. Senate hearing of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.




The administration will, however, continue to put pressure on companies to enable some sort of backdoor for government search requests, the Washington Post reported. The decision was reached during an Oct. 1 Cabinet meeting, but only revealed on Thursday.

Comey added that the tone of FBI and Justice Department talks with tech companies has changed, becoming "increasingly productive" with "a lot of the venom" disappearing. An anonymous official quoted by the Post hinted that this is why the administration is choosing to forego the legislative route.

U.S. tech businesses are applying growing levels of encryption to customer data, in some cases to the point that they can't decrypt it even when served with a warrant -- such as with Apple's iOS 8 and 9. Comey and others in U.S. government have complained that this could potentially interfere with criminal and terrorism investigations.

At the same time, many websites and platforms -- including the American military's -- are now coming under siege by both criminal and foreign government-backed hackers. The public has also become concerned about the overreach of the U.S. National Security Agency, which in 2013 was revealed to be conducting mass surveillance, sweeping in data from people not accused of any wrongdoing. Creating an intentional backdoor in digital communications might simply make it easier to discover exploits.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,331member
    Well that's a sensible decision, but in that context I'm not sure what further "pressure" will achieve. If Apple cannot decrypt messages, for example, then there will be no backdoor.
  • Reply 2 of 35
    eideardeideard Posts: 428member
    What a wimp article. You couldn't mention it was Ed Snowden who told us of NSA snooping? The reduction in venom may be a reaction to public opposition to creepy snoopers?
  • Reply 3 of 35
    eideard wrote: »
    What a wimp article. You couldn't mention it was Ed Snowden who told us of NSA snooping? The reduction in venom may be a reaction to public opposition to creepy snoopers?

    Is that what the article is about? Snowden?
  • Reply 4 of 35
    Is that what the article is about? Snowden?

    It's certainly part of the story.
  • Reply 5 of 35
    eideard wrote: »
    What a wimp article. You couldn't mention it was Ed Snowden who told us of NSA snooping? The reduction in venom may be a reaction to public opposition to creepy snoopers?
    Is that what the article is about? Snowden?
    It's certainly part of the story.
    Why? Do you honestly think the Swoden affair had anything to do with Apple's stance? I will concede that it has given Apple more support from some quarters for their action. But it might arguably have decreased support from other quarters.

    IMHO, this is about the government blinking. Apple won a decided round here.
  • Reply 6 of 35
    rob53rob53 Posts: 3,272member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by muppetry View Post



    Well that's a sensible decision, but in that context I'm not sure what further "pressure" will achieve. If Apple cannot decrypt messages, for example, then there will be no backdoor.

    Not now but there could be if the administration has their way. (When I talk about the administration, I'm including everyone, not just Obama.) Apple could be forced to change their code to allow a backdoor, which once created, will allow hackers to get in. I consider anyone without a valid account a hacker, like Google, Facebook, NSA, IRS, all the other three-character departments. It would also allow China and all the other countries on the government watchlist access since they will find it. As a result, there will not be any Apple-cased system that can say it is secure. Is our government willing to accept this risk? Of course because they really don't care about the little people they only care about all those terrorists. Where I used to work, a separate agency decided the risk factor, now each organization decides the risk. Of course, until something happens you can accept any amount of risk. Once this happened, my job was basically useless because we didn't need any security procedures just a risk analysis that covered everything. This happened before Obama but he isn't doing anything to change back to better oversight--even after the Snowden adventure.

  • Reply 7 of 35
    kent909kent909 Posts: 731member
    Maybe Obama just wants to avoid the embarrassment of when they all tell him to FO. After all who owns who and who tells who what to do. Let's not kid ourselves.
  • Reply 8 of 35
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Sacto Joe View Post









    Why? Do you honestly think the Swoden affair had anything to do with Apple's stance? I will concede that it has given Apple more support from some quarters for their action. But it might arguably have decreased support from other quarters.



    IMHO, this is about the government blinking. Apple won a decided round here.



    Without Snowden's revelations, no company would even be able to mention these matters.

  • Reply 9 of 35

    What the gov't really would like is to get the companies to secretly agree to giving them data and/or designing their systems so that the corporation has access to the unencrypted data so the gov't can get access to it [maybe even with a warrant], because legislation to force companies to do this would be really difficult to pass now.

  • Reply 10 of 35
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by kent909 View Post



    Maybe Obama just wants to avoid the embarrassment of when they all tell him to FO. After all who owns who and who tells who what to do. Let's not kid ourselves.

     

    You're not too familiar with the Justice system in the US, are you?

  • Reply 11 of 35
    plovellplovell Posts: 826member

    "Creating an intentional backdoor in digital communications might simply make it easier to discover create exploits."

     

    There, fixed it for you.

  • Reply 12 of 35
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,331member
    rob53 wrote: »
    muppetry wrote: »
    Well that's a sensible decision, but in that context I'm not sure what further "pressure" will achieve. If Apple cannot decrypt messages, for example, then there will be no backdoor.
    Not now but there could be if the administration has their way. (When I talk about the administration, I'm including everyone, not just Obama.) Apple could be forced to change their code to allow a backdoor, which once created, will allow hackers to get in. I consider anyone without a valid account a hacker, like Google, Facebook, NSA, IRS, all the other three-character departments. It would also allow China and all the other countries on the government watchlist access since they will find it. As a result, there will not be any Apple-cased system that can say it is secure. Is our government willing to accept this risk? Of course because they really don't care about the little people they only care about all those terrorists. Where I used to work, a separate agency decided the risk factor, now each organization decides the risk. Of course, until something happens you can accept any amount of risk. Once this happened, my job was basically useless because we didn't need any security procedures just a risk analysis that covered everything. This happened before Obama but he isn't doing anything to change back to better oversight--even after the Snowden adventure.

    "Could be forced..." How, exactly?

    And when you say that they only care about the terrorists, not the little people, bear in mind that they only care about the terrorists because it is their job to prevent the terrorists from hurting the little people. And that, of course, is a balancing act between the opposing goals of privacy and intelligence gathering.
  • Reply 13 of 35
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,418member

    The problem is, the government keeps wanting to go in my backdoor, 

    while I consistently envision them going out my backdoor...

  • Reply 14 of 35

    Ever tried to scan a banknote into Photoshop? Photoshop 4.0 was I think the last version that allowed that. Subsequent versions included code that detected the signature of US banknotes and prevented the scan from completing. What drives me up the wall is not so much the limitation (I'm sure the pros and cons of it can be debated) but how the secret service colluded with a private corporation to include "features" and keeping the customers completely in the dark about it. Nothing came out, nothing was leaked until the software had been released and someone found out by accident.

    They can actually have secret courts order corporations to do whatever they want, and tack on gag clauses that ensure that anyone who flaps their gums about it goes to jail. Do you really think if the FBI or Homeland Security want a backdoor in Apple devices they're not going to get it? Think again.

    Then, there's the other business about "keeping us safe from terrorists". When the only high profile action they've had to brag about for years is taking down a male "escort" service in New York, one wonders if we're not safe from terrorists just because the terrorists are busy doing something else right now.

  • Reply 15 of 35
    pistispistis Posts: 247member

    All this means is the NSA has cracked the latest encryption, as happened the last time they  stopped "crying wolf" after the concerns they raised in the mid 90's about Netscape not being allowed to export the ssl in the browser. 

     

    After all, the US government has zero credibility when it comes to claiming they are not spying on the People's communications. We in the know have always been aware of this and all that Snowden did was prove it to the mass population. 

     

    Oh and if you believe Apple does not have a back door, I have  second hand used car for you, only one owner!

  • Reply 16 of 35
    kent909kent909 Posts: 731member

     


     

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by kent909 View Post



    Maybe Obama just wants to avoid the embarrassment of when they all tell him to FO. After all who owns who and who tells who what to do. Let's not kid ourselves.


     






    Originally Posted by waterrockets View Post

     

     

    You're not too familiar with the Justice system in the US, are you?


    You mean the justice system that prosecuted zero CEO's or high level executives for the financial meltdown in 2008, where trillions of dollars were stolen from the economy. The justice dept. that levied fines against these same companies that amounted to single digit percentages of their profits. The same government that when faced with not bailing out the big banks complied because they knew that not doing so would completly destroy the economy. The same justice dept. that allows the same illegal activities go on today that caused the meltdown. So when push comes to shove and the government demands the data or back doors to the data, and they are told no we can't do that. What is the government going to do. Arrest Tim Cook and put him on trial. What would that do to the precious stock market that drives the economy. The government has the authority but corporations have the power. The only way this works is if the poeple who sit on the boards of these corporations share in the same irrational fear of terriorists that politicians do. We know that the only thing politicians fear is not getting relected and the business man only fears that he may not make enough profits and piss of the shareholders.

  • Reply 17 of 35
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,331member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by LordJohnWhorfin View Post

     

    Ever tried to scan a banknote into Photoshop? Photoshop 4.0 was I think the last version that allowed that. Subsequent versions included code that detected the signature of US banknotes and prevented the scan from completing. What drives me up the wall is not so much the limitation (I'm sure the pros and cons of it can be debated) but how the secret service colluded with a private corporation to include "features" and keeping the customers completely in the dark about it. Nothing came out, nothing was leaked until the software had been released and someone found out by accident.

    They can actually have secret courts order corporations to do whatever they want, and tack on gag clauses that ensure that anyone who flaps their gums about it goes to jail. Do you really think if the FBI or Homeland Security want a backdoor in Apple devices they're not going to get it? Think again.

    Then, there's the other business about "keeping us safe from terrorists". When the only high profile action they've had to brag about for years is taking down a male "escort" service in New York, one wonders if we're not safe from terrorists just because the terrorists are busy doing something else right now.




    You are paranoid. Adobe voluntarily implemented that feature, as have many companies, probably to make sure that they do not fall foul of accusations of aiding and abetting anyone breaching the 1992 Counterfeit Detection Act.

     

    As for bragging about high-profile counter-terrorist operations, they don't, which is why you generally don't hear about them unless they unavoidably become public. If you believe that effective intelligence-based actions have not been important in preventing terrorist activities on US soil, then who, or what do you think has been responsible, in the face of substantial determination by numerous, well-funded organizations to conduct such activities? Oh - that's right - you think that they are probably too busy elsewhere. Low priority, attacking the US.

  • Reply 18 of 35
    rcfarcfa Posts: 1,124member
    China violates human rights by betting on confessions to solve crimes, even if these confessions required torture, and violate the suspects right to remain silent and not to self-incriminate.

    The US violates human rights by destroying any semblance of a right to privacy and the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
    Tools are an extension of our body and organs, and computers are brain extensions. Forced revelation of the content of private encrypted data is the equivalent of forcing a person to swallow a truth serum and then be interrogated with no defense to the questions and suggestions confronted with.

    I consider both the Chinese and US approach morally equivalent, despite the US approach being somewhat less painful physically.

    Both are approaches that take shortcuts and try to replace difficult, labor intensive investigation with a magic bullet, both display a fundamental regard for the values of a free society and simply want results regardless of the price, both put the value of the state higher than the value of people.

    This sort of thinking and acting needs to be stopped otherwise "free society" will simply become a meaningless trademark for a product that's tyranny.
  • Reply 19 of 35

    The NSA must have cracked Apple's encryption. That's why they've changed their tune.

     

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by pistis View Post

     

    All this means is the NSA has cracked the latest encryption, as happened the last time they  stopped "crying wolf" after the concerns they raised in the mid 90's about Netscape not being allowed to export the ssl in the browser. 

     

    After all, the US government has zero credibility when it comes to claiming they are not spying on the People's communications. We in the know have always been aware of this and all that Snowden did was prove it to the mass population. 

     

    Oh and if you believe Apple does not have a back door, I have  second hand used car for you, only one owner!

     

    Damn...beat me to it. Except I was joking ... and no Apple does not have a backdoor.

  • Reply 20 of 35
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,331member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by rcfa View Post



    The US violates human rights by destroying any semblance of a right to privacy and the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

    Tools are an extension of our body and organs, and computers are brain extensions. Forced revelation of the content of private encrypted data is the equivalent of forcing a person to swallow a truth serum and then be interrogated with no defense to the questions and suggestions confronted with.

     

    I must have missed that clause in the Constitution.

     

    And in any case, under a warrant or court order, how is forced revelation of the contents of your computer any different to forced revelation of the contents of your filing cabinet?

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