FBI’s Anom stunt disrupts the encryption debate


The FBI has repeatedly succeeded in overcoming its “going to the dark” problem, which is contrary to protests claiming this is an existential threat. In some ways, Anom showed how creative the agency’s workarounds are. However, the researchers warn that as more and more governments around the world seek the power to demand digital backdoors-and in some countries like Australia, Enforce such laws——The authorities can also use the Anom case as valid evidence for special visits.

“From there, saying,’This works well. Wouldn’t it be great if every application has a backdoor?’ It’s not that big leap in rhetoric?” This is exactly what the US law enforcement agency said.” Riana Pfefferkorn, deputy director of surveillance and network security at the Internet and Society Center at Stanford University, said. If it can monitor every message on Anom so effectively, the FBI might say, why not just do more in more places?

Special case

It is important not to draw too broad inferences from Anom’s experience. According to documents released this week, the FBI is doing its utmost to work in accordance with foreign laws and avoid surveillance of Americans in its three-year plan. There is no direct threat to the FBI being able to deploy a completely backdoor system in the United States. The Fourth Amendment prevents “unreasonable” searches and seizures and lays a clear foundation for government search warrant requirements. In addition, continuous surveillance orders such as wiretapping warrants are more difficult for law enforcement agencies to obtain intentionally because they authorize extensive mass surveillance.But as The Prism program of the National Security Agency shows, Unchecked domestic digital surveillance programs are not impossible in the United States.

However, one lesson learned from Anom is that while it is effective in many ways, it also brings potential collateral damage to the privacy of people who have not been accused of any crime. Even products aimed at scammers can be used by law-abiding people, putting unintentional targets under severe surveillance while trying to catch real criminals. Anything that normalizes the concept of full government access, even in very specific circumstances, may be a step on a slippery slope.

“There is a reason for our authorization request, and it takes effort and resources to include the work in the investigation,” Pfefferkorn said. “When there is no friction between the government and the people they want to investigate, we have seen possible results.”

There are indications that the government has actively sought extensive backdoor authorizations, thereby reinforcing these concerns. Like Australia, the United Kingdom and other “Five Eyes” American intelligence colleagues have also put forward ideas on how law enforcement agencies can obtain mainstream end-to-end encryption services. For example, in 2019, the GCHQ intelligence agency in the United Kingdom proposed to establish a mechanism for law enforcement agencies to add them as silent, invisible participants in chats or other communications of interest to them. GCHQ believes that in this way, companies don’t have to crack their encryption protocols; they can simply add another account to the conversation, for example, add another member to a group chat.

This Reaction to the proposal Quick and authoritative from researchers, cryptographers, privacy advocates, human rights organizations, and companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Apple. They firmly believe that the tools that add the specter of law enforcement to the chat may also be discovered and abused by bad actors, putting all users of the service at risk, and fundamentally undermining the purpose of end-to-end encryption protection.

Cases like Anom, and other law enforcement agencies Secret management A secure communications company may not be able to realize the craziest dreams of law enforcement agencies regarding mass communications access. But they showed that—through all their own escalations, gray areas, and potential privacy implications—the authorities still have a way to get the information they want. The criminal underworld is not as dark as it seems.

“I’m very happy to live in a world where criminals are stupid. They put themselves into special-purpose cryptographic crime encryption applications,” said Johns Hopkins University cryptographer Matthew Green. “What I am really worried about is that eventually some criminals will no longer be stupid, but will switch to a good encrypted messaging system.”


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