Having a great platform to share messages with privacy is a great thing. Nevertheless, It is quite difficult to find that protection and privacy with all the snooping, especially on the Internet today.
It is a far too common a phenomenon for private data to be hacked and later released on the Internet for all and sundry to see. Faced with this challenge, software engineers deem fit to come up with an end-end encryption.
Simply put, a feature that prevented messages on transits from being molested into submission of releasing the hidden information contents. Your right to privacy is a cardinal human right. However, criminals have perfected the use of some of these obscure features of instant messages platforms causing much more pain than the joy the creators of the platform envisioned.
End-End Encryption- What About It?
End-end encryption serves to put snooping ears out of your private communications. The principle of operation is such that the message can only be decrypted by the recipient of the message. This effectively locks out the providers of the messenger application.
WhatsApp takes pride in it by noting that “privacy and security are in their DNA.”
It’s worth noting that initially, older chat apps employed the outdated Secure Sockets Layer. A form of encryption that only went as far as the service app provider servers were located. A dock point which was considered a safe haven at that time.
However, this fallacy was busted during the protracted FBI and Apple case over the San Bernardino gunman private messages. The security agencies successfully retrieved the message content from Syed Farook’s iPhone.
To avoid such cases of law enforcement agencies armed with courts orders that sought access to the service providers servers, the end-end encryption was born. With a stroke of ingenuity genius, service providers such as Apple’s owned iMessage, WhatsApp, and Google effectively shut themselves out of the message content being sent over their platforms.
End-End Encryption: The Bane of Law Enforcers and Policy Makers
Daggers have been drawn. Ready to slay the impermeable cryptography messaging platforms. The debate on the delicate balance between security and privacy has been on-going for quite some time.
However, with the latest terror attack on British soil, as well as, that which took place on French territory, policy makers are at it again. Strongly advocating for a breach of the end-end encryption.
Commenting on the Westminster terror aftermath, Amber Rudd, Home Secretary said,
“We need to make sure that organizations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other.”
She echoes the sentiments of the former British Prime Minister, David Cameroon response in 2015 after Charlie Hebdo’s terror attack in France underscored the need of legislations to prevent criminal perpetrators a safe communication channel.
Where Does That Leave The Public?
Abolishing, or maintenance of end to end decryption is such an emotive issue. No one wants to wake up the next morning to find their secret photos and videos scattered all over the Internet.
Legislation of the end to end decryption is thus a difficult path to navigate because of the sensitivity involved. However, beyond the emotions, lies a bigger picture. Unmasking of terrorists and other criminals should be the motivation for the desire to lessen end-end encryption of online messaging platforms. A feat that proves difficult with the current state of democratization of technology.
Terror groups are mushrooming in all corners of the world. Perfecting the art of applying end-end encryption in their operations. The knee jerk reaction being advocated by some of the world policy makers may prove to be of little value. Why do I say so? First, it should be noted that the software code which facilitates encryption is in the public domain. This provides criminals with a template to fashion an encryption that reflects on their needs. If you are in doubt about this capability, make reference to the Asrar al-Mujahideen software created by al-Qa`ida operatives to aid communication in privacy.
What Options Do The Law Enforcers Have?
Metadata remains a viable entry point of law enforcers to trace hell-bent criminal masterminds. Metadata can be rudimentarily defined as the addresses of the sender and the recipient of the encrypted messages. Strikes on potential terrorist attackers have been executed by information collected from metadata.
Robert Graham, a cyber-security specialist, is against the introduction of accessible points of strong cryptography on online messaging Apps, what is technically termed as the backdoor. He opines that the risks of backdoors outweigh the benefits.
He concludes by insinuating that the security agencies have the ability to outwit criminals while trying to obscure their communication platforms.
The debate on the end –end to end encryption will require uttermost sobriety by every stakeholder. Laws curtailing development of such software, universally, will be of little value.
However, terrorists thrive in states experiencing anarchy. It, therefore, goes without saying such laws will be of little value. Knee jerk reactions after a bloodbath are not the best way to approach the debate on end-end encryption.
However, all the necessary support ought to be accorded to law enforcement agencies to countermeasure terror attacks that are being perpetrated with the help of online encrypted messaging platforms.