Matt Blaze Quotes
If we try to prohibit encryption or discourage it or make it more difficult to use, we're going to suffer the consequences that will be far reaching and very difficult to reverse, and we seem to have realized that in the wake of the September 11th attacks. To the extent there is any reason to be hopeful, perhaps that's where we'll end up here.
As we build systems that are more and more complex, we make more and more subtle but very high-impact mistakes. As we use computers for more things and as we build more complex systems, this problem of unreliability and insecurity is actually getting worse, with no real sign of abating anytime soon.
Computer science doesn't know how to build complex systems that work reliably. This has been a well-understood problem since the very beginning of programmable computers.
The people working in my field also are quite skeptical of our ability to do this. It ultimately boils down to the problem of building complex systems that are reliable and that work, and that problem has long predated the problem of access to encryption keys.
I think it's interesting because the 1990s ended with the government pretty much giving up. There was a recognition that encryption was important. In 2000, the government considerably loosened the export controls on encryption technology and really went about actively encouraging the use of encryption rather than discouraging it.
So, in 1993, in what was probably the first salvo of the first Crypto War, there was concern coming from the National Security Agency and the FBI that encryption would soon be incorporated into lots of communications devices, and that that would cause wiretaps to go dark. There was not that much commercial use of encryption at that point. Encryption, particularly for communications traffic, was mostly something done by the government.
There's been a certain amount of opportunism in the wake of the Paris attacks in 2015, when there was almost a reflexive assumption that, "Oh, if only we didn't have strong encryption out there, these attacks could have been prevented." But, as more evidence has come out - and we don't know all the facts yet - we're seeing very little to support the idea that the Paris attackers were making any kind of use of encryption.
What encryption lets us do is say, "Yes, the Internet is insecure." Bad guys are able to compromise computers everywhere, but we're able to tolerate that because if they do intercept our messages, they can't do any harm with it.
In order for any smartphone manufacturer to decrypt the data on your phone, it has to hold onto a secret that lets it get that access. And that secret or that database of secrets becomes an extremely valuable and useful target for intelligence agencies.
On balance, the use of encryption, just like the use of good locks on doors, has the net effect of preventing a lot more crime than it might assist.
It's only after you get down into the technical weeds - and they are admittedly rather weedy - that it becomes clear that this is much harder than it seems and not something we're going to be able to solve.
We basically have only two real tried and true techniques that can help counter this. One of them is to make systems as simple as we can, and there are limits to that because we can only simplify things so much. The other is the use of encryption.
As the local police department might want to decrypt a phone of a criminal suspect, so would the Chinese or the Russian or the Iranian intelligence agencies like to be able to do exactly the same thing.
The security of computers and the Internet is a horrible and dangerous mess. Every week we hear about breaches of databases of Social Security numbers and financial information and health records, and about critical infrastructure being insecure.
Clipper took a relatively simple problem, encryption between two phones, and turned it into a much more complex problem, encryption between two phones but that can be decrypted by the government under certain conditions and, by making the problem that complicated, that made it very easy for subtle flaws to slip by unnoticed. I think it demonstrated that this problem is not just a tough public policy problem, but it's also a tough technical problem.