The FBI’s Anom Stunt aggravates the encryption debate
The FBI repeatedly believes that its success in overcoming its dark problem is an existential threat to protests. Somehow, Anom shows how creative the agency’s solutions can be. Researchers have warned, however, that as more governments around the world seek the power to demand digital backdoors, and like some, Australia, set these laws—The authorities can include the Anom case as proof that special access works.
“It seems like it’s not rhetorically a big leap forward from there.” It worked really well, wouldn’t it be nice to have all the apps behind the door? “Which literally means he wants to enforce U.S. law,” says Riana Pfefferkorn, associate director of surveillance and cybersecurity at Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society. If being able to analyze all of Anom’s posts was so effective, the FBI would say, why not just do it and in more places?
It’s important not to extrapolate from the Anom experience too much. According to documents released this week, the FBI made a major effort to work under foreign law and prevent American surveillance during the three-year initiative. And there is no immediate threat that the FBI could deploy a completely backward system in the United States. The fourth amendment protects against “unreasonable” search and kidnapping, and establishes a clear basis for the government’s mandate requirements. In addition, it is preferable to listen to orders for continuous surveillance to get them to prefer law enforcement because they allow for high-level surveillance. But, as It was shown by the PRISM program of the National Security Agency, uncontrolled home digital surveillance programs are not outside the realm of U.S. options.
The lesson that can be learned from Anome is that while it has been effective in many ways, it has had detrimental effects on the privacy of people who have not been charged with any crime. Players-oriented products can also be used by law-abiding people to try to catch real criminals by subjecting these unwanted targets to draconian surveillance. And anything that normalizes the concept of full government access, even in a very specific context, can be a slippery slope.
“There’s a reason we have requirements to ensure that efforts and resources are needed to put work into research,” says Pfefferkorn. “When there is no friction between the government and the people who want to investigate, we have seen what it can do.”
These concerns are indications that governments have sought broad back-door authorities. Along with Australia, other members of the “Five Eyes” intelligence in the US like the UK have put forward the idea that law enforcement could have access to major encrypted end-to-end services. In 2019, for example, the UK intelligence agency GCHQ proposed adding services to build law enforcement mechanisms on chats or other communications of interest to them in silent and invisible participants. Thus, the GCHQ argued that companies should not break encryption protocols; they could simply make a different account in conversations, like adding another member to a group chat.
The reaction to the proposal he was quick and definitive from researchers, cryptographers, privacy advocates, human rights groups, and companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple. They strongly argued that a tool to add ghosts to law enforcement chats could also be found and abused by bad actors, endangering all users of a service and fundamentally undermining the purpose of extreme encryption protections.
Cases like Anom and other examples of law enforcement agencies operates in secret secure communications companies, perhaps, do not enforce the wildest dreams of mass communication access to law enforcement. But they show — with all their escalation, the gray areas, and the consequences they can have on privacy — that the authorities still want ways to get information. The underground villain hasn’t gone as dark as it seems.
“I’m happy to live in a world where criminals are dumb and pile up for special purpose encrypted criminal encryption applications,” says cryptographer John Green Hopkins, Matthew Green. “My fear is that eventually some criminals will stop being dumb and go to good encrypted messaging systems.”
More great KABEKO stories