Cryptography Experts Repudiate FBI Director Chris Wray’s Call for Backdoor Encryption Access

2 minute read
| The Back Page

iPhone with Encryption Backdoor

Science doesn’t care what you believe—one of my favorite memes—and the same is true for math. And cryptography, and that’s important because current FBI Director Christopher Wray recently took up his predecessor’s call for backdoors into encryption. According to Mr. Wray, such backdoors can be built into secure communications without compromising security.

He’s wrong.

The Struggle Eternal

But this is essentially an eternal battle, as we’ve extensively written and podcasted about. While the U.S.’s intelligence community has largely accepted that America is stronger, on balance, with strong encryption, U.S. law enforcement remains frustrated when they can’t get at what could be evidence in criminal cases.

That appears to have driven Christopher Wray and James Comey on the subject, and their arguments resonate with both hard right law and order types, as well as left-leaning victims’ rights groups. But neither science nor cryptography care about their feelings, and four cryptography experts have publicly reminded us of this.

Enter Cryptography Experts

Triggered by efforts by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) to find out if the cryptography community supports Mr. Wray’s calls, Martin E. Hellman, Steven M. Bellovin, Paul C. Kocher, and Bruce Schneier signed a letter repudiating Mr. Wray’s recent calls for a backdoor. And they did so in a very poignant way.

These brainiac cryptography experts called on Mr. Wray to present his ideas on to do this so that the cryptography community could bang on them and make sure they work.

“Just because a non-technical person believes that such a system can be developed does not make it so,” they wrote in a response to Senator Wyden. “In fact […], many experts have warned that security would be weakened by exceptional access mechanisms.”

They added, “Instead of vague proposals, that sound reasonable yet lack details, the FBI needs to present the cryptographic research community with a detailed description of the technology that it would like implemented. That would allow the technology to be analyzed in an open and transparent manner so that its advantages and disadvantages can be weighed.”

That’s just…beautiful, poetic, even.

Mind you, there is a snowball’s chance in hell that such descriptions exist because it’s not possible, as the world of cryptography (and U.S. intelligence services) have understood for many years.

A big thanks to Senator Wyden for challenging this assault on reality and publishing this letter.

The Letter in Full

Here’s Senator Wyden’s tweet on the issue, including the letter:

8 Comments Add a comment

  1. jonb

    Hi Bryan,
    bringing partisan politics within the crypto space is dangerous for this country. It could mean the end of the USA. Was this person born in the USA pushing this policy? Was both his parents born in the USA as this should be a requirement for this type of decision. Is he a double agent bent on destroying America? Does he have dual citizenship? These are questions that should be mandatory and written in LAW. If we make laws wont it destroy the layer of protection we built for hundreds of years, taking away overnight would be the same as the berlin wall falling.

    Understanding non-compliant/unconventional cryptography is key to unbreakable encryption for the future although only temporary. Finding the secret encryption sites doing research in the field is another as there are few. Have we already fallen behind? Maybe… Which would make the next war against any superpower grim and devastating. Without rear echelons protected by advanced crypto the front will not be able to hide. Politicians careless about this fact and only push agendas further hurting country over policy. When those politicians have dual-citizenships and affiliations with other countries before America, can prove a problem. When major corporations steal/work closely for foreign entities, these same corporations could be the end of this nation as we know it, if they are incharge of tech this powerful. The major corporations have proven their allegiance to globalism and continue business with the enemies regardless what government says and would lobby against startups in favor of major corporations owning it all with nothing for the little man. That is she future. Sorry for being honest if you are triggered.

    I agree, if we do not nurture the crypto field, USA will fall behind and the frontlines will crumble overnight. Without real crypto, you have no military defenses. I have found freeemailencryption.com to sum up as the edge of cipher research, the latest in tech. An overview of the algorithm fixes many vulnerabilities in cryptography for centuries and provides a roadmap for others to follow. Looking more at their site, gives researchers the power to scale in places never before thought of. They have conquered the reuse of keys by an attacker, added notification of attacks on messages and alerts when key are used inappropriately. They also successfully stop mitm attacks on certificates when using encryption services, another first in tech. Another is keylogger defense along with screen capture protection, another first in tech not seen anywhere. Another first in crypto research is private key expiration that also uses message padding. Cryptojacking is also a thing of the past if you try there application. Seeing sites like this give hope that the American dream is still alive by little startups like this. But can be easily crushed and tech ideas stolen overnight.

    Unfortunately, they block access to majority of tech places. This maybe from corporate monopolies thievery ways who steal everything in the tech land and call it there own which is another story entirely since these monopolies are not working for America but for the globalist intent of pillage at all costs no matter the consequences.

  2. Dr.S

    “According to Mr. Wray, such backdoors can be built into secure communications without compromising security.”

    I don’t get the logic of statement, secure communication when big bro is listening?

    • gnasher729

      Mr. Wray’s idea is that communication is secure if it can only be broken by the FBI. Or by the FBI and the NSA. Or by the FBI, the NSA, and the IRS. Or by the FBI, the NSA, the IRS, and your local sheriff. Or by the FBI, the NSA, the IRS, your local sheriff, and your local sheriff’s girl friends brother-in-laws best friend.

      That’s fine, but what Mr. Wray doesn’t understand is that this doesn’t work. If the FBI can break your encryption, then GCHQ, the Russian and Chinese governments, every major company in the world, and any hacker will find a way to break it as well, because if the FBI can break it then it is breakable, and if it is breakable it will be broken. And we found out last year that even the NSA can’t keep their secret stuff away from hackers, so the FBI hasn’t got a chance in hell to keep their methods of breaking that encryption secret.

    • gnasher729

      And one difference between the FBI and the NSA is that while the NSA would love to read all your secret stuff, and while the NSA doesn’t care about your privacy, and while they don’t care about the privacy of anyone outside the USA, the NSA understands that if they can read the secret stuff of the bad guys, then the bad guys will inevitably learn how to read the secret stuff of the good guys, and overall this will be bad for the security of the USA. While the FBI only wants to be able to satisfy their curiosity. (They claim they want to solve criminal cases, but there have been a few cases recently where they where absolutely keen to get encryption broken, when it was quite clear to anybody that they wouldn’t find anything useful).

  3. wab95

    Bryan:

    This is yet another instance of the impact of what a lack of science literacy does to an otherwise affluent and educated society. You end up with expectations driven by a conflation limited knowledge and belief, which in turn fester into magical thinking about non-existent solutions. The results can be costly when foolishly pursued or purveyed to the public as fact and truth.

    Science literacy is about more than just knowing facts, as important as that is, but a system of investigating and thinking about those facts, and coming to appropriate, evidence-based conclusions.

    What I also love about Hellman’s letter is that it is on my Alma Mater’s letterhead.

  4. geoduck

    People accuse me of being a pessimist. But it’s things like this that make me so. Pearl Harbor happened, and the US was back footed for around six months, a year before we really started to come back. The next war will be on land, sea, air, and cyberspace. It could all be over in a few days. If Wakkotania starts invading Europe or marching across asia, and simultaneously disables phones in people’s pockets, cell towers, routers, Internet nodes, embedded systems, and remote operations for satellites, drones, and battlefield communications, it’s all over. But I’m not trusting that those that only see as far as the edge of their desk and the next election cycle are capable of understanding this.

  5. heg

    Bryan, as much of this lately has to wonder the politics involved and who/what entity is pushing it.

    Seeing so much of USA is influenced by external countries
    promoting the division of American way of life, one has to wonder the
    dual-citizens again pushing an agenda that weakens country in favor
    of them landlords and elite ruling the masses forever.
    The talk about quantum encryption is more amusing as they use fake-SCIENCE and physics
    as a way of confusing populace with big words that have no meaning expect for pundits
    promoting fakery. Use unbreakable noncompliant/unconventional platforms like
    freeemailencryption.com who defend and protect you. Not those foreign born
    politicians promoting to take away your freedoms. Its simple.
    It is your right to defend yourself from tyranny. Stay away from anything called quantum as its a ruse and fake pushed by ivy leaguer globalist cult.

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