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Encryption IT Technology

How Security Pros Look at Encryption Backdoors ( 52

An anonymous reader shares a report: The majority of IT security professionals believe encryption backdoors are ineffective and potentially dangerous, with 91 percent saying cybercriminals could take advantage of government-mandated encryption backdoors. 72 percent of the respondents do not believe encryption backdoors would make their nations safer from terrorists, according to a Venafi survey of 296 IT security pros, conducted at Black Hat USA 2017. Only 19 percent believe the technology industry is doing enough to protect the public from the dangers of encryption backdoors. 81 percent feel governments should not be able to force technology companies to give them access to encrypted user data. 86 percent believe consumers don't understand issues around encryption backdoors.
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How Security Pros Look at Encryption Backdoors

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  • by derek_m ( 125935 ) on Friday August 18, 2017 @10:08AM (#55040375)

    I can only conclude that almost 20% of security professionals surveyed are utterly incompetent.

    • by pr0fessor ( 1940368 ) on Friday August 18, 2017 @10:38AM (#55040525)

      Making something Illegal isn't going to stop a criminal or terrorist. The result is that they will simply use an alternate method without a back door and eventually find the back door placed in the encryption methods by law. This will only make e-commerce less secure.

      What if we hide the back door? It's to late for that and it wouldn't work anyway hackers will find the back door and they will use it, finding and creating back doors is their bread and butter.

    • Yep. Every back door is an open door.
    • Security professionals look at "Back" doors the same way we do "Front" doors in terms of "They let people in!" We look at back doors as worse, because there is measurable proportion between how well hidden the door is, and how nefarious the person is using them."

    • From the summary: 86 percent believe consumers don't understand issues around encryption backdoors.

      So it look like 14 percent either (1) don't understand encryption backdoors themselves (2) are trying to get rid of the survey as quickly as possible, or (3) never interact with people and therefore assume all people know everything they know, in a sort of intellectual peek-a-boo or Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal moment.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 18, 2017 @10:12AM (#55040397)

    86 percent believe consumers don't understand issues around encryption backdoors.

    Maybe we should start explaining it in the same way that governments try to justify access.

    Government claims to need backdoors to keep us safe from terrorists? Maybe we should ask "how is giving terrorists access to our financial information, medical information, power grids, etc, keeping us safe from said terrorists?" Keep it in the public eye that backdoors give terrorists access to our information just as easily as it gives "the good guys" access to it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This debate has been with us since the early 1990s when the Clipper Chip (with its LEAF override fields) was introduced. Every time this comes up, the answer is obvious:

      With how easy it is for information to leak [1], a deliberately placed backdoor would turn into a gold mine for terrorist organizations, criminal organizations, foreign intel, organizations doing industrial espionage. Especially now, when almost anything winds up leaking due to the popularity of those who will sell out their country for a

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Let's put a literal backdoor with a master key lock on every secured building in the country.

    Because no criminals are going to get their hands on that master key and make a copy, right?

    • It's dangerous to say stuff like this sarcastically now. Some idiot will think it's a good idea and run with it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It seems it should be an immutable law that if someone else has a key to your encrypted data, your data is no longer your data.

    • by arth1 ( 260657 )

      It seems it should be an immutable law that if someone else has a key to your encrypted data, your data is no longer your data.


      The problem, as I see it, is that concepts like "personal" are losing their meaning. The millennials have grown up without "expectation of privacy", and many don't even seem to understand the concept, nor the concept of not sharing.

      Whether encrypted or not, I think people should have a right to their data being safe from others, and "not shared with anyone" being the default state which you need to take steps to change.
      It should be up to me who I share with, not the government or private compa

      • The zero expectation of data privacy has come at us from many fronts, be it the "free" services where the subscriber is the product, not the customer, the fact that data is valuable, where VCs only will give money to businesses which sling ads and suck analytics.

        With the fact that who knows what people/entities have access to remotely stored data, coupled with the concern about some storage providers actively looking for "pirated" stuff, encryption isn't a luxury to "hide from the cops". It is a necessity

      • The millennials have grown up without "expectation of privacy", and many don't even seem to understand the concept ...

        Perhaps, but I also notice many of the older generation (mine and older) who have become used to the illusion of data privacy and the fact of relative anonymity. We still have most of the real world privacy we ever really had, but data collection and availability has tended to reduce the real world anonymity some people seem to cherish. People who live in smaller villages have not had anonymity and they get along fine.

  • by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Friday August 18, 2017 @10:27AM (#55040471)

    How to describe encryption backdoors to idiots and non technical people.

    Ask them to pull out their house key. Now have them go make 10,000 copies of that key and label each key with their name address and door location. Have them include their normal working hours.

    Now they are to pass out those keys to every police officer, fire department, medical service group in their area just in case the government needs to get in their house in an emergency.

    Now ask them a question how likely would it be that 1 out of 10,000 would get lost or misplaced and end up in the wrong hands?

    100% of the people I have explained it to that way suddenly change their minds. Though it is still a small sample size. Once a generic key has been created and passed around you might as well not have a key

    • That seems like a good analogy for the common person, because it relates to the fears of the individual. But the vulnerabilities introduced by intentionally compromising strong encryption have financially wider reaching side-effects than the value of the contents of individual houses.

      It's not possible to segregate 'consumer' and 'commercial' internet traffic to permit businesses to use unweakened encryption, so the backdoor compromises all financial transactions - offering a criminal prize equivalent to
      • There is no great analogy. Maybe if you used safety deposit box but less people use those now.

        The best analogy is something everyone can relate to. Except the homeless everyone has a house/apartment/home that is their personal space.

        Businesses can do the same.

        You have to assume someone has been compromised and the key is loose in the wild. That is the real reason backdoors to encryption is wrong. That the backdoors it self is compromised.

    • by Rick Schumann ( 4662797 ) on Friday August 18, 2017 @12:05PM (#55041073) Journal

      Now ask them a question how likely would it be that 1 out of 10,000 would get lost or misplaced and end up in the wrong hands?

      Worse: Some 'law enforcement officer' decides that since he/she has the key already, there's no reason for them to not go snooping around, warrant or no warrant. In fact let's go snooping through every house on the block, just in case we find something actionable. You know, for the safety and security of everyone. If people have nothing to hide in their homes, they shouldn't have anything to fear from this, right? And since it's 'law enforcement' on 'official business', they should trust them implicitly, right? If they don't trust them, then they MUST have something to hide, therefore justifying the snooping. Anyone making a big fuss over it for no reason probably is a criminal and needs to be investigated further..

      Excuse me, citizen; PAPERS, PLEASE..

    • Thanks, I'll use that - good job.
  • by Tomahawk ( 1343 ) on Friday August 18, 2017 @10:29AM (#55040483) Homepage

    Using obscurity in encryption just doesn't work. It has to be assumed that everything about the encryption method is known. Which is typically why everything about encryption methods is known - the algorithms and source code are always available to anyone.

    What is secret is the key that is used.

    Introducing a backdoor would mean that the method of how this backdoor is implemented would be known to everyone - it has to be, or at least assumed to be. So the only way to implement a backdoor "securely" is by using a key. This means hardcoding a public key into all public/private key encryption schemes and using both it and the users' public keys to encrypt the data, which is typically just encrypting the key for the symmetric encryption method (AES, for example) being used.

    I don't believe there would be a way to incorporate an extra key in a symmetric encryption system. Certainly not without seriously harming how the encryption works. And how would you hide the key? If the key is hard coded, everyone knows what it is, and can thus decrypt with it.

    Then you run into the problem of what happens once these hard coded keys are known to everyone, 'cos you know it's only a matter of time before they are either leaked or found. A global key to unencrypt all internet traffic - ever hacker and cracker, no matter if they are white, grey, black, or any other colour hat, would be searching for that key. And it wouldn't take all that long to find, given enough computing power (read: botnet).

    If a government does force this to happen, you know that they will be the first target for all of these people who find the global key(s).

    • Friend, here's the deal: Politicians and 'law enforcement' types probably actually understand all this, because they likely have advisors who are well versed in the technology, but the politicians and cops don't care; they want the power to snoop into anything, anywhere, at any time, without any barriers of any kind preventing them from doing so, they don't care what us peasants have to say about it, and they'll burn the world to the ground to get it. Of course none of them will be subject to this, there'd
  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...conducted at Black Hat USA 2017. Only 19 percent look forward to exploiting these encryption backdoors.

  • If 91% said that it COULD be used by hackers, I assume that the other 9% said that it WOULD be used by hackers.

    • by q4Fry ( 1322209 )

      The other 9% said "Nope, no one could exploit that. Certainly not me. Definitely secure. What's your IP address?"

  • "72 percent of the respondents do not believe encryption backdoors would make their nations safer from terrorists..."

    The remaining 28 percent were government plants and NSA corporate infiltrators.

  • I can be ok with the gov to spy on my encrypted coms.
    But would you get those backdoors will remain within the gov alone?

  • by XSportSeeker ( 4641865 ) on Friday August 18, 2017 @02:32PM (#55042419)

    The problem with governments suggesting backdoors in encryption is the same problem that generates a whole ton of bad decisions, grief, and politics towards the 1% - they live in a bubble.
    Why the heck a whole ton of politicians keep suggesting stuff like that is because they are surrounded by staff that don't have a clue about security.
    It's self evident for even people who read a bit on the subject: as soon as you put backdoors into encryption used by popular chat apps and whatnot, terrorists and criminals will just migrate to another platform that is out of the state's law reach and leave a whole ton of people who don't know better still using the platform, turning them into potential targets as their personal data starts to leak.
    And this is only a single reason why backdoors would never work. Not even mentioning how in principle, encryption with backdoor is already not encryption.
    They don't understand that good encryption has to be open and publicly audited, and that backdoor access would obviously leak, they don't understand how bad security practices are when handled by public sectors, how much data was already leaked by government mishandling, how the entire government would be far more vulnerable to foreign spies and terrorism in general should they weaken encryption, how banks would not be able to function without strong encryption, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

    Here's a good thing about the suggestion though: it's a good sign of politicians you should never vote for. They are legislating and promoting ignorance for votes or fear mongering with little to no technical backing. They are risking to put the public in even more danger because they keep pressing for laws that they don't know the full effect of. They are wasting taxpayer time and money because of their own ignorance. Keep these people away from representative positions.

  • It may need some work from app vendors, but adding a wiretap option isn't hard. 1) Fed gets a warrant and gives it to the app company they want to tap. 2) App company creates a public/private key and gives the private key to the feds. 3) App then sends a copy of all the user's data to the feds using the unique public key (flag in the user's account or something). 4) After the warrant expires, the feed to the feds stops.

    The keys are unique per warrant so criminals can't find the key. The feed is only transm

The solution of this problem is trivial and is left as an exercise for the reader.