Encryption is a basic form of security, like a lock on the front door of your house. It protects valuable digital information — everything from personal communications and bank account passwords to air traffic control systems and nuclear power plant controls. The US Department of Justice is once again demanding that tech companies create digital backdoors that break encryption, but this will only make all of us more vulnerable to privacy abuse, malicious hacking, and terrorist attacks.
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Attorney General William Barr is urging tech companies to break end-to-end encryption services by creating digital backdoors that will grant law enforcement agencies access to all electronic services. But placing digital backdoors in every commercial device invites hackers to target everything from smart doorbells and self-driving cars to hospitals and air traffic control centers.
In the past, hackers have used our own digital backdoors to interfere with communication systems, power grids, and nuclear facilities. That's why the former chief of the National Security Administration has warned that breaking encryption makes everyone less safe. And yet, Attorney General Barr still doesn’t get it.
Encryption relies on complicated math equations to effectively hide data from prying eyes. Even if the Department of Justice manages to legally compel tech companies to break the encryption services they use, anyone with math and programming skills can simply create their own encryption systems. Sufficiently-motivated bad actors will still be able to communicate in secret, while the rest of us will be left more vulnerable than ever before.
It isn’t just state-sponsored terrorists or malicious hackers we should be worried about. If Barr gets his way, your emails, text messages, computer files, phone calls — literally everything you say and do online — will be put at risk. Law enforcement agents frequently abuse digital surveillance systems to stalk their romantic interests, snoop on neighbors, and harass journalists. And the corporations responsible for the free-flow of data have a history of selling access to your sensitive information for their profit. Providing these people with even greater access into our online activities is certain result in greater abuse.
Digital backdoors are a disaster waiting to happen, plain and simple. Privacy is a fundamental human right around the world, and it has been recognized by the United States Supreme Court as the law of the land. Let’s make sure it stays that way.