Let’s be honest about the good old U.S. of A.’s F.B.I. chief. He gave it a shot going against Apple and the growing unrest against heavy-handed government intrusion. He was banking that emotion, public concern, and sentiment over recent terrorist acts would tilt the courts and public opinion in the government’s favor. It did not and now we face another storm.
Gimme More Encryption
The backdoor question of the encryption issue is simple. If the government has a backdoor to all encrypted PCs, smartphones, and tablets, and even access to the encrypted apps installed on those devices, will that prevent terrorists, criminals, and hackers from communicating? The answer is no. That’s because encryption is everywhere, and the government cannot play Whack-a-Mole fast enough to win.
Let the encryption era roll on. Here’s what’s happening right now. App developers are working diligently to encrypt and lock down their apps in such a way as to thwart government overreach, as well as keep out criminals and hackers.
Apple, Facebook, Google, and many other app developers with tens of millions or hundreds of millions of users are working overtime to add more layers of security, including encryption without a key (already common; check out your Mac’s FileVault in System Preferences > Security & Privacy ) FileVault. That kind of encryption requires a password, and the more complicated the password, the more difficult it is to hack into secured data.
Facebook already is working to expand the WhatsApp’s messaging service (probably in use by more people worldwide than any other) so that user-to-user voice calls are encrypted. The Mac, iPhone, and iPad app I use as the example of the future in 1Password, which for iPhone and iPad users, enhances security by using Touch ID, the fingerprint sensor. Without a password (or a finger) access to 1Password is nearly impossible.
It’s not just the U.S. government that wants backdoor access to encrypted devices and apps. Totalitarian governments, democratic governments, socialist governments, and dictatorships all over the world want to control citizens rights to secure communication and data. The question to be asked is simple. Can they? The answer is ‘yes’ they can, but will such access prevent terrorists, criminals, and hackers from breaking the law? No. The only thing that happens in such an Orwellian scenario is that average citizens are less safe when a backdoor to encryption exists than when it does not exist.
President Obama and his henchmen at the F.B.I. and Justice Department are on the wrong side of this issue. Interestingly, many current and former government officials, including the CIA and NSA, as well as members of congress, fully understand the issue and back Apple’s position of peaceful resistance.
Courts may rule against Apple, Google, Facebook, and other tech companies which provide the tools to secure your communications and information, and, if so, the rest of the world will fall Domino style, too. But that won’t stop the terrorists, hackers, and criminals. It won’t even stop people from doing everything possible to prevent government overreach into our personal lives.
My view on this issue has altered a bit in recent weeks. If Apple is forced by the government and courts to provide authorities with backdoor access to encrypted devices and apps, then all is lost, and other countries will follow suit. The rush to add more layers of security is on, both for operating systems, and third party apps. Perhaps, just perhaps, that perfect storm of revolution will be enough to win the day.