Texas Church Shooting: More Calls for Encryption Backdoors

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Texas Church Shooting: More Calls for Encryption Backdoors

US Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, has decided to use the recent mass shooting at a Texas church to reiterate calls for encryption backdoors to help law enforcers.

The incident took place at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, killing at least 26 people.

Deceased suspect Devin Kelley’s mobile phone is now in the hands of investigators, but they can’t access it — a similar situation to the one following the mass shooting in San Bernardino which resulted in a court room standoff between Apple and the FBI.

It’s now widely understood that there’s no way for an Apple, Facebook or other tech provider to engineer backdoors in encrypted systems that would allow only police to access content in cases such as these, without putting the security of millions of law-abiding customers at risk.

However, that hasn’t prevented Rosenstein becoming the latest senior US government official to call on technology companies to implement backdoors.

“As a matter of fact, no reasonable person questions our right to access the phone. But the company that built it claims that it purposely designed the operating system so that the company cannot open the phone even with an order from a federal judge,” he told a meeting of local business leaders in Maryland.

“Maybe we eventually will find a way to access the data. But it costs a great deal of time and money. In some cases, it surely costs lives. That is a very high price to pay.”

For its part, Apple has maintained that it works closely with law enforcement every day, even providing training so that police better understand the devices and know how to quickly request information.

However, it is standing firm on the matter of backdoors, aware that breaking its own encrypted systems for US police would likely lead to a stream of requests from other regions including China.

It’s also been suggested that cyber-criminals or nation state actors could eventually get their hands on any backdoors, which would be catastrophic for Apple and its users.

Top10VPN.com head of research, Simon Migliano, called for cool heads on the issue.

“The US Deputy Attorney General bemoans ‘warrant-proof encryption’ but fails to understand that there is no other type of encryption. As all privacy and security experts agree, to undermine encryption with ‘backdoors’ is to open a Pandora’s Box that puts at risk the entire online – and therefore real-world – economy.

“End-to-end encryption secures our banking, online shopping and sensitive business activities. Any kind of ‘backdoor’ would fatally undermine security in these areas. As we learned to our cost with the leak of CIA tools earlier this year, once an exploit exists, it’s only a matter of time until it leaks and cybercriminals have yet another tool at their disposal.”

AT&T CEO won’t join Tim Cook in fight against encryption backdoors

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AT&T CEO won’t join Tim Cook in fight against encryption backdoors

US politicians have been urging tech companies to weaken the security of smartphones and other products by inserting encryption backdoors that let the government access personal data.

Numerous tech companies—including Apple—have come out strongly against the idea, saying that encryption backdoors would expose the personal data of ordinary consumers, not just terrorists.

But tech company leaders aren’t all joining the fight against the deliberate weakening of encryption. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said this week that AT&T, Apple, and other tech companies shouldn’t have any say in the debate.

“I don’t think it is Silicon Valley’s decision to make about whether encryption is the right thing to do,” Stephenson said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “I understand [Apple CEO] Tim Cook’s decision, but I don’t think it’s his decision to make.”

AT&T has been criticized repeatedly for its cooperation with the US National Security Agency, but Stephenson says his company has been singled out unfairly.

“‘It is silliness to say there’s some kind of conspiracy between the US government and AT&T,’ he said, adding that the company turns over information only when accompanied by a warrant or court order,” the Journal reported yesterday.

While presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called for a “Manhattan-like project” to help law enforcement break into encrypted communications, Cook argues that it’s impossible to make an encryption backdoor that can be used only by law enforcement. “The reality is if you put a backdoor in, that backdoor’s for everybody, for good guys and bad guys,” Cook said last month.

Security researchers recently discovered a backdoor password in Juniper firewall code. Researchers also found a deliberately concealed backdoor in dozens of products sold by a company that supplies audio-visual and building control equipment to the US Army, White House, and other security-conscious organizations.

FBI Director James Comey told lawmakers in October that the Obama administration won’t ask Congress for legislation requiring tech companies to install backdoors in their products, but he said the administration would continue lobbying companies to create backdoors even though they’re not required to.

Despite AT&T sitting out the debate, plenty of tech companies balk at the idea. A letter to President Obama protesting deliberate weakening of security last year was signed by Adobe, Apple, Cisco, CloudFlare, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Google, Level 3, Microsoft, Mozilla, Rackspace, Symantec, Tumblr, Twitter, and others. AT&T did not sign the letter.