Encryption is still widely used in communications by criminals, to the displeasure of U.S. Attorney General William Barr. Barr believes that encryption vendors should build backdoors into encryption to give law enforcement access to these communications. In an article on AG Connect, Fox-IT’s Chief Security Expert Frank Groenewegen disagrees with the American.
According to Groenewegen, such a backdoor would weaken the security of an encryption system. “A back door is conceived and implemented by someone, and it must be possible for someone to use it. That means that other people can abuse it.”
Barr doesn’t see this problem. “We are certain that there are technical solutions that allow legal access to encrypted data and communication by law enforcement agencies, without significantly weakening the security offered by encryption,” said the Attorney General.
But Groenewegen is sceptical of even such a technical solution: “In a democratic country, it is often the case that the police must first have a suspicion and, in some cases, request permission from a public prosecutor to use special powers, sometimes even requiring special authorisation from a judge. And then we have independent courts here, which review all of this afterwards. But that is very different in Russia or China, for example.”
The privacy aspect also plays a role in the discussion about the technology of encryption. This is because making encryption accessible also means that some privacy is lost, which makes the discussion even more difficult. Groenewegen: “I see that both supporters and opponents are no longer listening to each other. And that shows that this is a very difficult subject.”