‘Father of internet’ speaks out against govt demand for back doors in encryption

Reuters / Mal Langsdon
Internet pioneer Vint Cerf said Monday that creating defects in encryption systems for law enforcement, often known as “back doors,” was “super, super risky” and not the “right answer.”

Cerf, recognized as a “father of the internet,” currently working at Google, told an audience at the National Press Club that he understood law enforcement’s desire to avoid being locked away from evidence that could be used to prevent crimes. He went on to say, however, that providing such access raises constitutional and legal questions.

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The Congress is forced now to struggle with that, and they’re going to have to listen to these various arguments about protection and safety on the one hand and preservation and privacy and confidentiality on the other,” Cerf said, as reported by The Hill.

The Obama administration has been trying to force companies like Google and Apple to create defects in encryption so the FBI and other government agencies can gain access to people’s information; this despite mounting criticism over the plan – a criticism that’s shared by Cerf.

“If you have a back door, somebody will find it, and that somebody may be a bad guy or bad guys, and they will intentionally abuse their access,” said Cerf.

“Creating this kind of technology is super, super-risky,” he added. “I don’t think that that’s the right answer.

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Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed a program codenamed “Bullrun,” which showed that the government penetrated encryption securities through the use of “supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion.

Since those disclosures, Silicon Valley industries have been working feverishly to adopt encryption technology beyond the reach of law enforcement agencies that haven’t first obtained a warrant, and to appease customers worried about their privacy. Law enforcement sees it differently, however.

“If this becomes the norm, I suggest to you that homicide cases could be stalled, suspects walked free, child exploitation not discovered and prosecuted,” FBI Director James Comey warned in October, reported The Hill.

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For tech companies, though, it is not a question of creating “back doors” or “front doors” – it’s just a matter of secure technology and unsecure technology.

Last week, a bipartisan group of legislators attempted to add an amendment prohibiting the government from forcing companies to build back doors into their devices to a bill reforming the National Security Agency. Despite full support from House Judiciary Committee members, the measure was dropped over concerns it would sink the underlying bill.