Sunday, August 06, 2017

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on Crypto weakening: Crypto War 2.0

One of the oldest encryption known to man was the Caesar cipher, also known as a shift cipher. Mostly used by Julius Caesar to send messages which he didn’t want to be understood by his enemies. Shift to today and encryption are an important part of your digital day-to-day life. Consider anyone who sends a WhatsApp message or browsing securely, encryption protects your security and importantly your privacy. But with the new Crypto war being started where government agencies are wanting a reduction in encryption strengths so that they can break into our digital day-to-day life is on. Quite the “Et tu Brute”moment for us, the users.
The idea is well iterated by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg where she says, “The goal for governments is to get as much information as possible. And so when there are message services like WhatsApp that are encrypted, the message itself is encrypted but the metadata is not, meaning that you send me a message, we don’t know what that message says but we know you contacted me,”. You quite clearly can understand her to stand in the matter where the governments are already being provided meta data (pretty much a road map of your activities) but now the new policies could make the use of the applications quite invasive.
The Crypto War ideally started in the 1990s when they did a bad promotion with the “Clipper Chip“, could not withstand the distribution PGP crypto system, reduce the strength of SSL encryption used in our browsing or the latest Apple iPhone unlock push.
Taking a queue from “Big Brother”, the other 2 members of the Five Eyes (FVEY) – UK and Australia, moved fast to herd their own legislative sheep. The Five Eyes of Surveillance  – the USA, the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, have a joint cooperation in sharing military, human and signals intelligence. The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter (The Investigatory Powers Act 2016) passed on 29 November 2016 was a step in the direction to have in-built backdoors to encrypted systems, for Government and Intelligence agencies to investigate.
The Australian Prime Minister has already stated that the UK’s law is a great model law and could hint at their own version very soon.
crypto Sheryl Sandberg
Sheryl Sanberg
“weakening of encryption would make lesser data available to Governments than more”
Sheryl Sandberg further makes it clear that weakening of encryption would make lesser data available to Governments than more, as in time people would use offshore alternatives.
This directly impacts Data Sovereignty , which was on the side of the Government. Tech giants like Google, Facebook and Apple have all spoken about how privacy and security is an offering of encryption but have faced challenges from Government agencies to about its use in terrorism and crime. Both ends of the debate hold up with no clear indication of a middle ground being reached anytime soon.
With Sentiment analysis and other processing tools in the age of Big Data, much of hate speech, terrorism and radical content and the other distasteful media are being slowly worked towards to be curbed and mitigated. Moves like these are counter intuitive to Intelligence as well because having too much information sometimes doesn’t mean you have complete intelligence. It is how fast you process this intel and can take action on it that counts.
One good thing does get underlined in the interview though. With all the fear of automation in the industry, a human touch is still required for intel generation.

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