Crypto Wars Part II: The Empires Strike Back

Presented at 32C3 (2015), Dec. 30, 2015, 12:45 p.m. (60 minutes)

Governments around the world are seeking to put a stop to secure end-to-end encryption, from the UK’s Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act, to Australia’s Defence Trade Controls Act, to India’s draft proposal to require plain text copies of all secure messages, to the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation’s public pressure on global companies like Apple and Google to weaken their security and provide law enforcement access to plain text content. Yet it is impossible to give these governments what they want without creating vulnerabilities that could be exploited by bad actors. Moreover any attempt to prevent people from writing and publishing strong encryption without backdoors conflicts with the right to freedom of expression enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This presentation will address the history of crypto wars, update the audience with the latest information on government proposals from around the world, and discuss how we can fight for a future that will allow for secure communications for everyone. The discussion will also include information about EFF’s effort to protect and promote strong encryption, including the Secure Messaging Scorecard, Encrypt the Web report and the Who Has Your Back reports. The presentation will explain how the unintended consequence of these efforts to provide law enforcement unfettered access to communications for users’ privacy and the security of the Internet far exceeds the benefits that would be gained. The proposals are often made in the name of protecting national security, but are likely to have severe economic, political and social consequences for these nations and their citizens, while doing little to protect their security. Contrary to these government proposals, encryption has a critical role to play in national security by protecting citizens against malicious threats. The harm to the public that can be presented by lax digital security has been illustrated too many times: weak or flawed cryptography led to vulnerabilities such as Logjam and FREAK that compromised the transport layer security protocols used to secure network connections worldwide. Encryption is not only essential to protecting free expression in the digital age – it’s also a critical part of national security. This presentation will address the history of crypto wars, update the audience with the latest information on government proposals from around the world, and discuss how we can fight for a future that will allow for secure communications for everyone. The discussion will also include information about EFF’s effort to protect and promote strong encryption, including the Secure Messaging Scorecard, Encrypt the Web report and the Who Has Your Back reports.

Presenters:

  • Kurt Opsahl
    Kurt Opsahl is the Deputy General Counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a civil society organization that fights for civil liberties in the digital age. In addition to representing clients on civil liberties, free speech and privacy law, Opsahl counsels on EFF projects and initiatives. He is the lead attorney on the Coders’ Rights Project. Before joining EFF, Opsahl worked at Perkins Coie, where he represented technology clients with respect to intellectual property, privacy, defamation, and other online liability matters, including working on Kelly v. Arribasoft, MGM v. Grokster and CoStar v. LoopNet. For his work responding to government subpoenas, Opsahl is proud to have been called a „rabid dog“ by the Department of Justice. Prior to Perkins, Opsahl was a research fellow to Professor Pamela Samuelson at the U.C. Berkeley School of Information Management & Systems. Opsahl received his law degree from Boalt Hall, and undergraduate degree from U.C. Santa Cruz. He co-authored „Electronic Media and Privacy Law Handbook“. In 2007, Opsahl was named as one of the „Attorneys of the Year“ by California Lawyer magazine for his work on the O’Grady v. Superior Court appeal. In 2014, he was elected to the USENIX Board of Directors and became an affiliate of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

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