Earlier this month, the Australia government announced plans to introduce legislation that would force social media and messaging companies to decrypt secure messages. Meanwhile, Germany has broadened their law enforcement's ability to use malware to circumvent encryption as part of active criminal investigations.
Additionally, cyber criminals would certainly take advantage of backdoors imposed on encryption technology. Adversaries are already abusing encryption because most businesses don’t have the tools they need to protect themselves. In 2017, over half of all network attacks will be hidden in encrypted traffic -- this is projected to risk to more than 70% by 2020. As we have seen before, backdoors can, and will, fall into the hands of cyber criminals.
“Giving governments access to encryption will not make us safer from terrorism – in fact, the opposite is true,” says Jeff Hudson, CEO of Venafi. “Most people don’t trust the government to protect data and they don’t believe the government is effective at fighting cybercrime. It’s ironic that we believe we would be safer if governments were given more power to access private encrypted data because this will undermine the security of our entire digital economy.”
The security of encryption is a confusing and technical topic that many IT experts don’t completely understand. So what does the public think about the increasingly contentious debate on encryption technology? Do they believe encryption backdoors will make them safer?
Venafi conducted a study on consumer attitudes and opinions on government backdoors to access encrypted data. One thousand consumers from the United States, United Kingdom and Germany (3,000 total) participated and the results showed that the public is conflicted about the how these laws and policies would affect them personally.
Highlights from the study include:
Despite concerns regarding governments’ ability to protect sensitive data and the suspicion that governments already abuse their power to access data on private citizens, consumers remained confused over how encryption backdoors would impact their privacy and national security:
“The results of this research indicate that security and privacy are probably going to get a lot worse before they get better,” concluded Jeff Hudson. “It’s very clear that consumers are confused about what access to encrypted data will mean to their privacy, and it’s equally clear that governments don’t understand how encryption backdoors will be used to undermine our global digital economy. The negative impact encryption backdoors will have on every aspect of security and privacy is tremendous.”
It’s clear from these results that consumers don’t understand the impact that encryption backdoors will have on their privacy and they are confused about how backdoors can be abused by cybercriminals.
Our increasing reliance on encrypted communication between networks of machines makes identification and authentication between machines critical. Secure and reliable authentication is the only way we can limit encrypted machine-to-machine communication to authorized machines.
What is the technology community’s responsibility in this debate? How can we educate consumers about the threats encryption backdoors bring to their privacy and security?