Below is a good article discussing a topic which will only continue to grow!
Why is Silicon Valley helping the tech-savvy jihadists?
Developing apps and emails that are heavily encrypted is playing into the hands of Isil. Whose side are they on?
By Clare Foges from the dailytelegraph.co.uk
7:00AM GMT 21 Nov 2015
Fiendishly-complex online encryption is providing the safe space for terrorists to plan bloodshed on an industrial scale. Products like Whatsapp have become, in the words of GCHQ Chief Robert Hannigan, “the command-and-control networks of choice for terrorists and criminals” – precisely because they are highly encrypted.
Isil claimed credit for both the Paris attacks and the bombing of the Russian airliner on Telegram, the messaging app du jour for terrorist nutcases. Because it’s very private, you see. On this end-to-end encrypted product you can communicate beyond the reach of intelligence agencies.
Isil now even have a 24-hour tech helpdesk to assist would-be jihadis with secure communication, advising them on the best under-the-radar apps.
If this is a war we are engaged in, the frontline is online – and the enemy is being aided by Western tech companies. Terrorists want ever-safer spaces to operate in, and the tech giants say “Sure! Here’s an end-to-end encrypted product that is impossible to crack. It’s a lock without a key. Even we don’t have a key.”
Why? It goes back to Edward Snowden, the weaselly inadequate whosegrasp for posterity has proved a boon for Isil. They should be gratefully chanting his name in Raqqa, for it was Snowden’s revelations about government surveillance methods that triggered this extraordinary race towards deeper encryption.
It was Snowden?s revelations about government surveillance methods that triggered the race towards deeper encryption
In the wake of those tip-offs, tech companies faced a massive PR headache on privacy. And so Google, Apple, Facebook and the rest have been falling over themselves to offer products that no government can break into. Apple declare that they “refuse to add a backdoor into any of our products”. Facebook have introduced a standard of encryption for emails called PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), a “Snowden-approved” system.
Telegram offers a “secret chat” service with a self-destruct function for messages, “for people who want more secrecy than the average fella.” (What, like Abdelhamid Abaaoud?)
"There are legitimate concerns that if you open up a “back door” for governments to access data, then the bad guys can come in through the same route."
All this is making the job of the security services infinitely harder. FBI Director James Comey calls the challenge “going dark”. Leads are followed until they hit the brick wall of indecipherable data. A few years ago law enforcement agencies could approach Hotmail or Google with a warrant and get vital information to stop horrors unfolding. Now the data they salvage is often gobbledegook – a load of encrypted numbers that are impossible to read. They are trying to save lives but are being frustrated by encrypted technology.
And what is the response of the tech companies? Extraordinary arrogance. Google CEO Eric Schmidt declared earlier this year that they “will win” the battle for encryption, making the likes of the NSA and GCHQ out as the enemy rather than the murderous butchers of Isil.
When asked if he slept well at night knowing terrorists use his platform, Telegram founder Pavel Durov replied: “That’s a very good question but I think that privacy, ultimately, and the right for privacy is more important than our fear of bad things happening, like terrorism.” Tell that to the grieving of Paris.
This isn’t about privacy, it’s about profit. The tech firms have calculated that they build user numbers by inflaming fears of violations of privacy and offering more secrecy than anyone else. It suits them to paint Government agencies as snoopers who hate all encryption. But this is too simplistic. GCHQ invented encryption. Half of its job is defending the UK against cyber attacks, and the right kind of encryption is a vital part of their armoury. They simply want reasonable access, with a warrant, when lives are in danger.
There are legitimate concerns that if you open up a “back door” for governments to access data, then the bad guys can come in through the same route. As Apple CEO Tim Cook argued: “If you put a key under the mat for the cops, a burglar can find it, too.”
But this is not a reason to refuse co-operation outright. The global tech industry made around $3.7 trillion last year. They employ some of the brightest people on the planet. Apple et al could, if they wanted, employ a fraction of these resources to work out how we can simultaneously keep the good guys’ data secure and keep the bad guys in plain sight. The geniuses of Silicon Valley would be more than a match for the dunderheads in the desert.
Paris must be a wake-up call. If they had any conscience at all, these great Western powerhouses of the 21st century would be joining the fight to preserve our way of life – not helping to facilitate Islamic State’s way of death.
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