Our lazy intelligence community is complaining that people care about privacy and encryption. According to the this Washington Post article, there are “Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.” And instead of them learning to get around security and encryption when it’s legal and required for them to do so, they’re complaining that the media is encouraging people to learn to protect themselves. With such rampant surveillance without cause, this only seems like common sense.
In this Gizmodo article NSA Deputy Director Rick Ledgett lay the blame on the media when he made this confusing statement before a House Intelligence Committee “The ability of these terrorists to communicate with one another that makes it very difficult to uncover has been increasing. It’s very frustrating but very concerning,” Brennan said. “They follow the press, they follow these discussions…We track when our foreign intelligence targets talk about the security of their communication,” he said. “And we see a growing number of them, because of what’s in the press about the value of encryption, moving towards that.”
Encouraging weakness and ignorance in hopes that ethos spreads to terrorists is preposterous. If we don’t have anyone among the hundreds of thousands of people employed by the intelligence community in the US who can beat encryption when they are asked to and empowered to, I see one area of government that needs it’s budget cut significantly.
Security has been in the news a lot lately, with the conflict between Apple and the FBI over the ability of the FBI to gain access to a terrorist’s iPhone. The issue is, the FBI wants a backdoor into just one iPhone. Just one. But as Bruce Schneier, author and Chief Technology Officer of Resilient Systems, a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center, and a board member of EFF wrote
If a backdoor exists, then anyone can exploit it. All it takes is knowledge of the backdoor and the capability to exploit it. And while it might temporarily be a secret, it’s a fragile secret. Backdoors are how everyone attacks computer systems.
Sadly, people don’t care about security and encryption, despite the protestations and testimony of the NSA Deputy Director. We care about convenience and fun and the latest apps. Not just as individuals, but businesses as well, who sacrifice security to quickly have capabilities like huge established competitors. As individuals, increasingly we share tons of data on profiles and in quizzes. Our email and search histories are mined for ads, and we don’t think much of it anymore. I recently searched for what vegetable a PLU code matched that I found on a rubber band worn as a bracelet by a little girl at church. Now I’m seeing ads to buy bags of these rubber bands on Facebook.
If we think we’ll get leadership on this from our next president, we’re likely in for some serious disappointment. In a Techdirt article that highlights Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton’s confusion on encryption, where she wants to spearhead cooperation between government and Silicon Valley, Mike Masnick wrote,
None of the candidates for president appear to have the slightest clue how encryption or computer security work and that allows them to make statements like this that are totally nonsensical, while believing that they make sense.
Security and encryption aren’t just for people with nothing to hide. Cooperation between government and the companies that hold your personal information is not something we should welcome. As Edward Snowden was quoted in a Techcrunch article from what he said during a remote interview as part of the New Yorker Festival
When you say, ‘I have nothing to hide,’ you’re saying, ‘I don’t care about this right.’ You’re saying, ‘I don’t have this right, because I’ve got to the point where I have to justify it.’ The way rights work is, the government has to justify its intrusion into your rights.
As individuals, citizens and business owners we’re being asked to abandon security and encryption for convenience and even patriotism. We’re confused and disinterested. We’re giving away our rights and privacy, and being made to feel disloyal if we don’t.