Tag: Encryption

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There is a former cop still in prison (old link but he’s still there) because he won’t unlock his hard drives, held there without being formally charged with a crime. This seems bad, but the case becomes borderline when the words “Child Porn” come across the screen. The courts believe that there is child porn […]

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  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these rights are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just power from the consent of the […]

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You Are Hereby Ordered …

 

shutterstock_403591747Imagine you’ve been convicted of no crime — in fact, imagine you’ve not even been charged with a crime — but have been incarcerated for nearly seven months. This is the current situation of a former Philadelphia police sergeant who has been housed at a federal detention center for refusing to comply with a court order to divulge information which could be used to charge and convict him of possessing child pornography. During an investigation into users of a secure file sharing network, he became a person of interest, and a warrant was served on his residence to collect evidence to support the government’s suspicions. Authorities sized two encrypted hard drives during the search, but lack the ability to view their contents unless unlocked by a password. When the man evoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination at a grand jury, the presiding judge ruled that he could not be compelled to provide the encryption passcodes for the drives. Failing to secure an indictment through the normal process, prosecutors turned to federal courts.

On the affidavit of Homeland Security agent (what DHS has to do with a local child porn case is beyond my ken) a warrant was issued by the federal court for a search of the hard drives. “After obtaining the warrant, the government made an application pursuant to the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1651, for an order compelling Mr. Doe to ‘produce’ the drives ‘in an unencrypted state’ … Magistrate Judge Thomas J. Rueter so ordered.” Upon instruction from the judge, the man entered several passcodes that failed to unlock the devices. When ordered to explain his inability to successfully unlock the devices he refused, was held in contempt, and has been jailed since, without conviction and without charges being brought against him. The case is now on appeal to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

If some of this sounds familiar, it is because the FBI used the All Writs Act in an attempt to compel Apple to unlock the iPhone San Bernardino county had issued Syed Faroook before he murdered 14 of his co-workers in the name of the Islamic State. The difference here is the government is using the act in an attempt to compel a person of interest in a criminal investigation to provide information which could lead to his arrest and conviction of a very serious crime. It seems absolutely clear to me that using the All Writs Act in this manner is in direct violation of the 5th Amendment.

Ignorance of the Facts Should Be No Defense of Law

 

Even among the rogues’ gallery of US senators I’ve had the misfortune to be represented by — Patty Murray, Barbara Boxer, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Elizabeth Warren, and Ed Markey to name a few — Senator Dianne Feinstein stands out. What distinguishes from her colleagues is her peculiar and rather particular passion for championing regulations on matters about which she is wholly ignorant.

Decoding the Encryption Debate (Bonus: My Bank Password!)

 

The_Secret_Decoder_Ring_Title_CardThis isn’t a commentary on the Apple case. I’m not following that very carefully. I’ve been frustrated for quite some time by silly encryption talk, and it’s just now boiling over. So I’m going to share, in layman’s terms, what modern encryption means and how it works. After that, I’ll explain why the encryption debate is like a bad joke gone too far.

Politicians, Republican and Democrat alike, frame the conversation in a completely misleading way that exploits the public’s ignorance of the underlying technology. I pray this is just a result of their own ignorance, and not a more cynical, informed duping of the American public.

Washington seems to treat encryption like Democrats treat guns. They think it’s controllable, can be regulated, and will somehow stop “the bad guys.” We, on the other hand, know there’s no stopping the inevitable. Better that the good guys have access, too.

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Color me naïve, but it seems to me that there is an easier solution to the Apple decryption problem than a court result. Why doesn’t the FBI simply hand the iPhone to Apple, have the Apple programmers decode the encrypted information in any manner they want and send the resulting data back to the FBI […]

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From the Editors’ Desk: Feds Hate Encryption… Except When They Fund It

 

From the WSJ:

Researchers in London last year discovered an online jihadi handbook with instructions on sending encrypted instant messages that would be indecipherable to law enforcement. The tools it recommended—ChatSecure and Cryptocat—are popular throughout the Middle East, making them easily available to extremists from that part of the world. They were also developed largely with money from the U.S. government. The U.S. federal government can work at odds with itself, but not often so directly on a topic with such clear national-security implications. Some federal agencies have funded the development of nearly unbreakable encryption software, while others, especially in intelligence and law enforcement, fume over their inability to read protected messages when they have a court order.

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As you’re already aware, the Federal government is suing Apple Inc to force Apple to provide software for breaking the encryption of an Apple phone owned by San Bernardino County and used by a county employee in the pursuit of his terror and his wife’s attack on county offices. Apple’s CEO has demurred and is […]

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You’re From The Government? Come In!

 

shutterstock_148619159“Encryption” generally conjures up images of clandestine communication between spies, saboteurs, hackers, and the mildly paranoid, often typing away furiously on a keyboard in a dark room until someone says “I’m in!”

The truth, however, is far more mundane. Almost everyone in the West — and certainly everyone reading this — uses some kind of encryption technology on a weekly, if not daily, basis. You may not be aware that you’re using it, but you’re using it nonetheless. If you like buying things on Amazon, doing your banking from home, or paying your bills from your computer, you rely on ubiquitous, relatively inexpensive, and strong encryption. Companies also use it in a myriad of other, equally mundane, ways that are essential to their business. Encryption makes the world go ’round.

Unfortunately, it’s also useful to those trying to make the world stop. That, understandably, has FBI Director James Comey worried. In order to help fight criminals and terrorists, Comey has been calling for greater cooperation between industry and the government on encryption. Specifically, Comey wants industry to design its encryption technologies to be quickly accessible to law enforcement and national security. Just last week, Comey testified before congress to that effect (from the NYT):