Thursday, November 26, 2015

EFF compares digital security encryption to home security systems, in opposing government calls for back-door decryption to combat terroris,

Cindy Cohn, of Electronic Frontier Foundation, left a compelling essay for Thanksgiving Day, "Stronger Locks, Better Security”, link here.

The piece is motivated by the idea that tech companies should provide a “back door” decryption for the federal government to use in anti-terror investigations, albeit under court supervision.  This would be accomplished by Apple and other companies keeping “highly secured” copies of decryption keys put on mobile devices somewhere in an Iron Mountain (or Cheyenne Mountain) facility, maybe to be secured in a manner comparable to NORAD.

Cohn offers an analogy to homeowners installing sophisticated home security systems and installing pick-resistant deadbolt locks.  The latter, made mainly by Medeco, became popular in the 1970s, first with apartment dwellers in New York City.  If the government required homeowners install less secure physical perimeter security, homeowners, especially those who live alone or where both spouses work or travel heavily, would be unacceptably vulnerable to crime and even become uninsurable.  So the same analogy holds for security of one’s computing environment and one’s own social media accounts, websites, and particularly mobile communications.  If one is forced to deal with weaker mobile security, inevitably (especially for women) stalkers and criminals would present an unacceptable risk even if police could more easily intercept major plots.

So the overview is that security is really morally a matter of personal responsibility.  That sounds fine for libertarians, and suits the 2nd Amendment lobby.  But sometimes the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

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