WhatsApp, iMessage and Snapchat attacked for their encryption
Realistically, you can’t ban encryption. Encryption is used to protect communication over electronic devices; protects your banking information and online accounts. This is cryptography, it is used in hundreds of systems. We have politicians talking about banning these technologies. How can this be? British Prime Minister David Cameron has raised a red flag over encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp, iMessage and Snapchat. He has called for a ban on these apps; which implies that they are being used by criminal and terrorist organizations to communicate.
“In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people that we cannot read?” the Prime Minister said rhetorically.
With this type of logic I will go so far as to say; we must leave our houses and cars unlocked; and valuables left unattended in public spaces because it would surely be much easier to catch thieves and put them in jail.
Security is not just for what the social norm calls the “good guys.” It is a two way street. I prefer to have the peace of mind knowing that my data is so well protected; to the point that government officials cannot take advantage of it. Think of the various ways this could go wrong. Imagine corrupt politicians with access to data or simply consider that loosening security measures will make it easier for the average hacker to access.
Computer scientists have spoken out about the futility of weakening encryption; so only government officials have access. These same weaknesses can be exploited by malicious hackers. This point of view is held by many computer experts actively in the field.
A few months ago there was a call for a ban on WhatsApp in the UK; It has recently been removed due to massive criticism. But this can of worms is not closed yet. This has just brought the problem to other parts of the world; where they can theoretically gain some traction and spread. India has a ban on certain types of encryption. WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption; which is illegal in India. WhatsApp uses 256-bit encryption that only the sender and receiver know. India only allows 40 bit encryption if you want to get permission you have to apply through the government. The Indian Government has requested the keys to gain access; but the creators of WhatsApp have said that they do not have them. So all users using the latest version of WhatsApp in India are technically breaking the law. No actions have been decided on what to do with the company; they are not based in India, which complicates matters. Recently, it was reported that the Brazilian authorities collected WhatsApp data in hopes of combating drug tracing. WhatsApp has been cooperating with law enforcement; but they have continued to say that they cannot provide the full extent of what they want. We are only discovering what is on the surface; Do some research on what your local government and even internet service providers are doing; and what data are they doing with this data.