The Risk of Mandating Backdoors

Last week, at his keynote at the Enfuse 2018 conference, former FBI Director James Comey shared his view that the government should not permit malicious actors from encrypting their data. His perspective was shared by others at the conference, which featured many law enforcement professionals.

According to the Washington Post, the FBI has repeatedly provided exaggerated statistics to Congress and the public about the extent of problems posed by encrypted cellphones, claiming investigators were locked out of nearly 7,800 devices connected to crimes last year when the correct number was much smaller, probably between 1,000 and 2,000.

The cyber security community also has a point of view on the device encryption question. Some, like Jeff Hudson, CEO of cybersecurity solution provider Venafi, are concerned about the dangers of government-mandated backdoors. “In light of the FBI’s ongoing demands for government-mandated encryption backdoors this data really clarifies the scope of the problem. The reality is that governments mandated backdoors will allow cyber criminals to undermine all types of private, secure communications. With all of the rhetoric around this topic it’s easy to lose sight of the facts — any government that mandates backdoors is no different from the world’s most authoritarian governments. At this moment, citizens in the United States have basic rights to privacy. But, if our government mandates backdoors that protection goes away.”

As Hudson’s insights suggest, the matter is far from simple. Congress is seeking more information. Stay tuned.