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Global Encryption Under Threat

Criminals can also use encryption. So some law enforcement agencies are concerned that encryption will stop them from getting the evidence or information they need. To address these concerns, some governments are trying to make companies create ways for them to access the content encrypted by the companies’ systems (a practice known as “exceptional access”).

No matter the method, there is no such thing as “exceptional” access. Criminals could discover and use the same way to get in.

How do law enforcement plan to access our data?

Law enforcement has proposed several ways for getting “exceptional access” to encrypted data. These include:

An encryption backdoor, which is change to an encryption protocol, application or service that is supposed to allow authorized third party access to encrypted data. One way to do this is by weakening the encryption mechanisms or the systems supporting them.

The problem: Backdoors can be opened by anyone who finds them.

Key escrow, which is when decryption keys are stored in the custody of a trusted third party for later use by law enforcement.

The problem: Keys can be lost, copied or stolen.

If law enforcement can access our data, who else can too?

Information security experts agree that while backdoors and key escrow systems make it easier for law enforcement to access encrypted data, they make it easier for others, like criminals, to as well.

Backdoors can be opened by anyone who finds them.

Keys can be lost, copied or stolen.

But at least we’d catch the bad guys, right?

Unfortunately not.

Experts agree that exceptional access is unlikely to prevent criminals from communicating secretly.

  • Even if encryption without exceptional access were illegal, criminals could still find tools on the black market, or make their own.
  • Everyday users who comply with the law could be vulnerable to criminals who have discovered how to exploit exceptional access systems.

Exceptional access puts the everyday person at greater risk, while not solving the problem it was intended to fix!