After disclosures about the National Security Agency’s stealth campaign to counter Internet privacy protections, a congressman has proposed legislation that would prohibit the agency from installing “back doors” into encryption, the electronic scrambling that protects e-mail, online transactions and other communications. Related
Representative Rush D. Holt, a New Jersey Democrat who is also a physicist, said Friday that he believed the N.S.A. was overreaching and could hurt American interests, including the reputations of American companies whose products the agency may have altered or influenced.
“We pay them to spy,” Mr. Holt said. “But if in the process they degrade the security of the encryption we all use, it’s a net national disservice.”
There is a storm abrewing.
The NSA is doing more than just breaking encryption. It is actively subverting the companies who work to provide secure encryption, making that encryption must less trustworthy.
This undermines all commerce on the internet, whether it is just emails or whether it involves financial transactions. All of it becomes useless if the ability to securely encrypt is subverted.
The NSA’s tactics are already beginning to be felt by companies who rely on the trust of their customers. Cloud computing is becoming a must but the NSA looks to have destroyed that.
I expect to hear that trying to limit the NSA’s ability to weaken encryption will hurt us by allowing the bad guys to escape. No mention of the billions (trillions?) of dollars that this will cost the economy. Of the jobs lost due to the loss of revenue from companies working in the cloud. Or from business transactions that do not get performed.
Better one bad guy (who may not even exist) get caught. For this, they broke the internet.
The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper (who has already been caught lying to Congress, with no penalty) stated:
Anything that yesterday’s disclosures add to the ongoing public debate,” it continued, “is outweighed by the road map they give to our adversaries about the specific techniques we are using to try to intercept their communications in our attempts to keep America and our allies safe and to provide our leaders with the information they need to make difficult and critical national security decisions.
What many people have not seen from those same disclosures (at least in any American media) is that the NSA views all of us, all Americans, guilty or innocent, as adversaries, not just the bad guys. Anyone is an adversary to them.
Among other things, the program is designed to “insert vulnerabilities into commercial encryption systems”. These would be known to the NSA, but to no one else, including ordinary customers, who are tellingly referred to in the document as “adversaries”.
“These design changes make the systems in question exploitable through Sigint collection … with foreknowledge of the modification. To the consumer and other adversaries, however, the systems’ security remains intact.”
“Other adversaries.” That is the hallmark of a security state – everyone needs to be monitored because everyone is a suspect. EVERYONE. The paranoia of a security state makes every an adversary to the state, an enemy of the state.
It should be against the law to work against the best interests of all Americans. This law would make that happen.
I expect this attempt to control the surveillance state to die until we actually understand more of the problem. And then it might be too late.