FBI Announces Post-Election Attack on Encryption

The FBI announced a plan to crack down on encryption.

In a keynote address on August 30th, James Comey, the FBI’s director, announced a renewed push to break encryption after November’s election is over. He stated that the push would be to install backdoors in encryption of private data for easy government access.

Comey’s intention to renew the fight against encryption came about because the issue “has dipped below public consciousness now.” The wait to address encryption until 2017 comes because “next year we can have an adult conversation in this country” about it.

US Officials Join Their EU Counterparts In Encryption Opposition

The renewed push to crack encryption by US authorities comes after counterparts in the European Union have expressed similar initiatives. Last month, the French and German interior ministers called on the EU to implement measures forcing encrypted app manufacturers to develop backdoors for use by law enforcement officials. This would effectively make end-to-end encryption, where only the sender and recipient have access to the transmitted data, illegal in Europe, similar to (but in starker terms than) what the FBI seeks to implement in the US.

The EU’s crackdown on decentralized tech is not limited to encrypted communications. The commission also announced new rules to implement know-your-customer/anti-money-laundering regulations on businesses dealing with the tading of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. The state reasoning behind these regulations is to combat the financing of illicit operations such as terrorism.

Playing The Part of a Cryptographer Is No Easy Game

The path of those deeply involved in encryption and decentralized, private tech is far from an easy one. Last year, one of Tor’s developers, Isis Agora Lovecruft, fled to Germany after facing pressure from the FBI to bow to pressure to cooperate with an investigation related to encryption. Even something as innocuous as a search on Google could raise suspicions with federal authorities. Searches for terms such as “Linux” “Tor” and “secure desktop” could cause the US National Security Agency to brand someone as an extremist.

Despite outside pressures, however, the encryption community largely remains committed to its craft. As part of a new social contract and code of conduct, the Tor Project announced a pledge against installing backdoors in encrypted software at the behest of authorities.

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