No, Bloomberg, end-to-end encryption isn't a worthless 'marketing device'

Posted:
in General Discussion
Seriously, Bloomberg used to be a respected publication. However, its latest opinion column on technology has taken the recent WhatsApp security flaw to mean that all security, specifically end-to-end encryption is a "smokescreen" by technology companies.




Everyone makes mistakes. And anyone can misunderstand a subject, most certainly when it's to do with technology and security. Yet Bloomberg has just published a piece that effectively advises us all to leave the front door of our houses open. A criminal who wants to get by our locks could do it, so, hey, just open the door now and be done with it.

"'End to end encryption' is a marketing device used by companies used by companies such as Facebook to lull consumers wary about cyber-surveillance into a false sense of security," writes Bloomberg opinion columnist Leonid Bershidsky

He does throw in that "encryption is, of course, necessary," but does so in a paragraph that Bloomberg notes was "updated to clarify uses of end-to-end encryption." And then he immediately goes on to dismissing it as a "smokescreen" used by technology firms trying to avoid "government snooping."

This is in the wake of the WhatsApp attack where a security flaw meant it was possible to install spyware on Android and iOS phones. You had to be what Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, described as advanced and highly motivated in order to exploit this flaw, but it could be done and of course that's serious. Of course you must update to the latest WhatsApp to remove it.

If Bloomberg's Bershidsky were worried by this, that would be natural. If he's exasperated by how there are so many security issues or if he were just plain scared by it all, we'd understand and agree.

Bloomberg's opinion page, complete with a tenuously-linked
Bloomberg's opinion page, complete with a tenuously-linked "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" photo


He's an opinion columnist rather than a news writer, too, so a piece about what this means for us all is fair and you wouldn't expect it to go into detail about the technology. But you would expect that he'd at least have a clue what he was offering opinions about -- or that he wouldn't presume his readers don't.

Instead, the stated position is that the kind of end-to-end encryption which is intended to protect us is nothing more than an advertising gimmick.

"'End-to-end encryption' sounds nice," says Bershidsky, "but if anyone can get into your phone's operating system, they will be able to read your messages without having to decrypt them." Yes, and if you can get into someone's bank account, you could clean them out. If you can get to their potted plant by a front door, you could find the house key hidden there and get in.

These are legitimate concerns, but what they most definitely are not is a reason to abandon keys and bank accounts and security. Criticize them, even lament failings in them, but you cannot argue that we'd be better off without them.

Bershidsky and Bloomberg are choosing to take an actual spyware attack and extrapolate that out to say that all technology security is worthless. They say that "if anyone" can get in, but they want you to ignore the word "if" and see only "anyone".

That's not a mistake. If it's misunderstanding, that's one thing and we would hope that Bloomberg would correct the piece beyond the token updating of one paragraph. We'd likely be waiting for a while, as it's now been seven months Bloomberg made a monumentally huge and roundly ridiculed security accusation against the likes of Apple.

We're still waiting for Bloomberg to either prove that or correct it. We know the publication spent at least a little time re-investigating its claims, and the writers involved abruptly stopped being published afterwards. Yet we don't know any of that from Bloomberg itself so we don't expect a correction over this column either.

It was last October that Bloomberg made its enormous claim of spyware, and we're still waiting for proof or retraction.
It was last October that Bloomberg made its enormous claim of spyware, and we're still waiting for proof or retraction.


Nor to any of the steadily increasing number of just wackily inaccurate Apple stories from Bloomberg.

Apple ignored those, as it usually does, but with the security story it did respond. Tim Cook described it all as a simply a lie and there's a reason that word is rarely used. Calling it a lie means more than it being wrong or mistaken, it means deliberately, intentionally false.

This new piece about end to end encryption is an opinion column rather than a news story and, again, anyone can make mistakes. Yet if we're not going to call this deliberately and intentionally false, we are going to call it irresponsible, and simply dangerous.

"Truly secure communication is really only possible in the analog world," concludes Bershidsky, "and then all the old-school spycraft applies."

If that seems a sudden lurch away from the topic of technology, it is. That reference to old-style espionage is there to stand up the reason Bloomberg illustrated this nonsense with a photo from a movie dramatisation of John le Carr's "Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy."

The Bloomberg piece, again, isn't a column about security at all. It is entirely a dangerous piece looking for excuses to write something that looks good, and reads easy, with no room for actual explanations of what happened or why.


Keep up with AppleInsider by downloading the AppleInsider app for iOS, and follow us on YouTube, Twitter @appleinsider and Facebook for live, late-breaking coverage. You can also check out our official Instagram account for exclusive photos.
«1

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    kruegdudekruegdude Posts: 332member
    Good movie though. 
    Solibakedbananaswatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 21
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 7,298member
    That Bloomberg still won’t admit they fucked up their bombshell story so badly that even their only named source came out to say they got what he said wrong and likely got the rest wrong too, means these guys have no credibility. They’re just throwing darts around blindly, seeking to misdirect from their own massive failure in reporting. Pro-trolls. 
    magman1979pscooter63lordjohnwhorfinroundaboutnowlolliverchasmolsracerhomie3n2itivguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 21
    boboqboboq Posts: 7member
    Mike Royko had it right in 1996: "...it's been my policy to view the Internet not as an 'information highway' but as an electronic asylum filled with babbling loonies."
    StrangeDaysolsLordeHawksdw2001watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 21
    magman1979magman1979 Posts: 1,121member
    Since having gotten Apple News, and seeing articles from Bloomberg, Forbes, LA Times, ALL those publications having proven to be lying smut rags, to the point I’m now blocking them because even seeing their names makes me feel sick.

    Yet millions of people believe what these asshats put out verbatim and without question. No wonder the US is so fucked, people can’t think for themselves anymore, and the mainstream media takes advantage of them hook like and sinker.
    lordjohnwhorfintoysandmelolliverracerhomie3LordeHawkn2itivguycgWerksbakedbananaswatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 21
    Bloomberg is a mess. It pops op on Apple News and a lot of their articles really annoy the hell out of me. Uninformed authors making click-bait.
    lordjohnwhorfinlolliverchasmn2itivguy
  • Reply 6 of 21
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,425administrator
    If you can't see your comment, read the commenting guidelines. Stay relevant to the topic at hand.

    Edit: still no. Don't persist.

    Edit again: Communities have rules to abide by. Failure to abide by them has consequences, and I've been called far, far worse by better people than you. Enjoy the ban.
    edited May 15 lordjohnwhorfinroundaboutnowlolliverchasmmuthuk_vanalingamn2itivguywatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 21
    knowitallknowitall Posts: 1,284member
    End to end encryption is of real importance to freedom of people.
    It is also in direct conflict with government; look at the founder of PGP: Phil Zimmermann 
    The argument that “being able to hack the end point invalidates end to end encryption” is a fallacy.
    Being able to hack the end point invalidates the security of one (only one) person and is time consuming and often difficult to do. Compare it with a wire tap in the old days.
    But it doesn't invalidate all other encrypted communication and restricts governments control (or that of another powerful organization) to a select few.

    StrangeDaysracerhomie3bakedbananas
  • Reply 8 of 21
    jdb8167jdb8167 Posts: 133member
    Pretty sad state of affairs over at Bloomberg. They really seem intent on turning themselves into another click-bait operation. Asking even the most junior of security specialists would have prevented this from being published in its current form.
    roundaboutnowchasmLordeHawkbakedbananaswatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 21
    The FBI and now Bloomberg tell me I don’t need encryption.  

    Does cash under the mattress work?
    lordjohnwhorfincgWerkswatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 21
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,403member
    The only way “end-to-end encryption” doesn’t work is if Facebook offers it, because their definition of words like “encryption,” “privacy,” “security,” and “VPN” mean “for everyone except US, obviously ...”
    bakedbananaswatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 21
    Fascinating to me that some people only pick up on what a joke major media outlets are when a subject hits home. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 21
    Johan42Johan42 Posts: 155member
    Since having gotten Apple News, and seeing articles from Bloomberg, Forbes, LA Times, ALL those publications having proven to be lying smut rags, to the point I’m now blocking them because even seeing their names makes me feel sick.

    Yet millions of people believe what these asshats put out verbatim and without question. No wonder the US is so fucked, people can’t think for themselves anymore, and the mainstream media takes advantage of them hook like and sinker.
    You sound like the type that takes what Apple (a for-profit corporation) says “verbatim”, but condemns others for doing the same.
    muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 13 of 21
    bulk001bulk001 Posts: 477member
    It’s an opinion piece! If everyone overreacted with this type of hysteria to opinion pieces we’d have no time for anything else. Offer to write a rebuttal.

    On a separate note, didn’t the US just ban a Chinese telecommunications company for fear that their hardware was compromised? And they refused to let China Mobile offer services here incase they had backdoors that the Chinese government could exploit. Makes me think that there could have been at least some truth to that Bloomberg story. 
    edited May 15 retrogusto
  • Reply 14 of 21
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 571member
    If Bloomberg considers end-to-end encryption a gimmick, does that mean they will get rid of their own website's SSL security? That's end-to-end encryption.
    LordeHawkmacseekerStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 21
    LordeHawkLordeHawk Posts: 129member
    First, there are plenty of good people and even some respectable departments at Bloomberg.  Statistically, they can’t report everything wrong, even as opinion pieces.

    Second, the US polarization wouldn’t be fixed with accurate, unbiased reporting.  So let’s not pretend that we can mend our nation with something so easy.  I have solutions but they would take me far off topic, into another bottle of wine, and ultimately banned.

    Third, I like the idea of a high court removed from traditional power bases, that privately reviews “journalism” for accuracy.  Any news considered incendiary or popular could be subpoenaed for accounting.

    It’s shouldn’t be “Freedom of Speech” when a profit generating platform can lie without recourse.  The officers of a publicly traded company cannot lie or mislead their stockholders without being accountable.  Yet journalists, can lay waste to whole governments or industries.

    If the pen is mightier than the sword, your sword isn’t against their throat...
    bakedbananaswatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 21
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 363member
    Attributed to Mark Twain: “If you don’t read the paper you’re uninformed; if you read the paper you’re misinformed”. 
    StrangeDayscgWerkswatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 21
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 16,990member
    I read this editorial, then the Bloomberg article.  Quite frankly, I think this editorial is blowing the Bloomberg piece way, way out of proportion.  I was expecting a piece that advocated for zero encryption because--what the heck---it doesn't matter.  That's not at all the message I took from it.  It says encryption is necessary, but that it can be defeated by OS-level malware/hacks.  It also says it's used as a marketing device.  Aren't these statements true?  I don't see a piece that is "dangerous" or claiming that cybersecurity is useless.  It seems to me that the real bias is found in this editorial.  Bloomberg has gotten a lot wrong, and it's not something I find that credible on several issues..  But attacking this opinion piece as "irresponsible" and "dangerous" is completely out of line.  Pointing out that end to end encryption might not be as secure as one thinks is quite responsible.   
    edited May 16 muthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 18 of 21
    jcs2305jcs2305 Posts: 721member
    Johan42 said:
    Since having gotten Apple News, and seeing articles from Bloomberg, Forbes, LA Times, ALL those publications having proven to be lying smut rags, to the point I’m now blocking them because even seeing their names makes me feel sick.

    Yet millions of people believe what these asshats put out verbatim and without question. No wonder the US is so fucked, people can’t think for themselves anymore, and the mainstream media takes advantage of them hook like and sinker.
    You sound like the type that takes what Apple (a for-profit corporation) says “verbatim”, but condemns others for doing the same.
    Is Apple a news agency? 
    StrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 21
    retrogustoretrogusto Posts: 716member
    When something is published as an “opinion” piece, as this clearly was, the publication is presenting it an one person’s view, open to discussion, rather than a fact-checked article that they fully stand behind. Opinion pieces are often controversial, and even the best news sources publish opinion pieces with a certain level of BS from time to time, but responsible publishers designate them as opinion pieces so the reader knows to take them with a grain of salt. It’s scary that some people wouldn’t understand this, but it helps explain why some people seem to be having trouble these days distinguishing between trustworthy news sources and those that are less so. 

    I do think there is a value to publishing ideas that not everyone’s agrees with, because it opens them up to discussion and criticism, as it has here, and leads us to understanding each others’ positions better. 
  • Reply 20 of 21
    It makes me wonder what kind of leverage the US intelligence agencies have on Boomberg that has made the publication their bitch?
Sign In or Register to comment.