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.
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:
I’ve been pushing the FBI Director to back up his claim that tech companies can weaken their encryption without harming cybersecurity. The experts say that it simply isn’t possible. Here’s what four of the top cryptographers in the world wrote to me today: pic.twitter.com/ngxONJ9ABt
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) February 13, 2018