Articles tagged with "encryption"

Here we go again - encryption and the EU

The Council of the European Union has released this Draft in which they call for what is effectively a ban on End-to-End Encryption (E2EE). The document itself is unsurprisingly vague, but if you follow the parallel document about "Exceptional Access" you'll see a bunch of proposed solutions, all of which require the interception of your private communications. As it is to be expected, the documents pinky swears that this is the only way that terrorists and child predators will be stopped.

There are several reasons why this is a stupid idea. Today's post will briefly detail the main two.

First, this is technically impossible. The entire point of E2EE is that no one (not you, not me, not the NSA) can decrypt their content without the right key. And yet, the proposal that has been passed around in the last years is the idea of a "master key", a key that only authorities have and that would be "carefully" used by the authorities to legally decrypt content between two parties that they consider suspicious. So let's assume that WhatsApp implements this idea. They now have a single key that only the EU can access. Well, two keys - Australia has legally mandated backdoors, so they need their own. And China will need one too. The US wouldn't need one, simply because some of WhatsApp servers are in the USA and therefore the NSA can use a National Security Letter to force WhatsApp to reveal the other keys while forbidding everyone to talk about this. As you can see, the "one single key" idea is flawed from the very beginning.

And then there are the hackers: if it comes out that there is a secret key that breaks WhatsApp's encryption, it is now a race between WhatsApp's engineers to keep it safe against every single government in the world trying to break it.

The second main point is: if you ban secure communications, then only criminals will have access to secure communications. We already have unbreakable encryption and it is trivial for any criminal organization to deploy their own. So they are not the ones whose communications will get intercepted. The only wiretapped ones will be us, the law-abiding citizens. Instead of keeping us safe from criminals, the Council of the European Union is delivering us into the data collection efforts of the NSA and friends.

A call for action

Do you remember when the European Unions imposed sanctions against the NSA for their illegal data collection? Me neither, because that didn't happen. And I don't see why this time it would be any different. Well, there is that one time when Angela Merkel told Obama that she was angry he wiretapped her phone. I'm sure he felt really bad about that. But my point is: I wouldn't expect our politicians to stand up for our privacy, in particular when they are the ones creating the problem to begin with.

We have once again a proposal that will not stop any criminals, is technically impossible, and that is being written without asking anyone who knows what they are talking about. If you are in the EU I ask you to contact your representatives - I am not aware at the time of any movement against this, but I bet at least the Pirate Party will have something to say (edit Nov. 25: they do). The tech industry already lost the DRM fight (as exemplified by the ongoing youtube-dl saga) and the fight against Article 13. And there are lobbying efforts underway to bring software patents to Europe.

Don't let your privacy go away too.

Further reading

  • Whenever someone swears that they can keep the "master key" secret, remind them of that time the secret NSA luggage keys ended up in the Washington Post.
  • A Hacker News thread with more than 650+ comments discussing several other points with much more details.