Who wants the FBI looking over your shoulder as you post a message on Facebook? Nevertheless, “The FBI is asking Internet companies not to oppose a controversial proposal that would require firms, including Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google, to build in backdoors for government surveillance.”
Perhaps the FBI has not seen WarGames. Lightman asks Jim what backdoors are. Jim replies, “Whenever I design a system, I always put a simple password that only I know about. That way, whenever I want to get back in, I can bypass whatever security they have added on.”
When you circumvent software security protocols, you devalue them. A Washington Post article states, “I can’t imagine a better way to kill US competitiveness in the tech sector abroad. What European, Asian, or South American will want to use a US product such as Google+ or Facebook knowing that the US government has easy access to whatever is said, shared, uploaded, or done there? This could accelerate massive migration away from predominantly American tools and networks.” Networks the FBI would have no control over.
It’s unlikely the FBI wants these companies to intentionally create a hole in their security fence. They can’t possibly think that they are the only ones who would be getting into these backdoors, can they?
Other consequences would be the increased expense of developing new communications software in the future. TechDirt concludes that “The end result won’t make it any easier for the FBI to track down real criminals, but it will put plenty of non-criminals at risk. It will do this while making things much more expensive for tech companies that want to let its users communicate.”
Maybe the FBI doesn’t understand what it means to devalue security protocols. Hackers do. They have repeatedly demonstrated that they are capable of penetrating even the most secure corporate and government networks, and you can be sure that they would consider it an appropriate challenge to find the backdoor to FBI computers.
That would be “the story” in the news—hackers love publicity.
What greater incentive do the hackers need to find and exploit these vulnerabilities that are so conveniently placed in the code? Even without purpose-built methods for law enforcement to circumvent the security built into communications software, we know plenty of instances where developers have unintentionally left security holes that were subsequently widely exploited.
Not only that, but who is legally responsible when data thieves hijack one of these back doors and steal sensitive personal data? Lawsuits would abound from social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) and VolP (Voice over Internet Protocol such as Google Voice and Skype) who offer interconnectivity services. This is not to mention lawsuits from text chat services such as Yahoo and AOL IM. I don’t think the FBI would want these headaches. Nor does the US government have the money to waste on attorneys defending the FBI.
Fortunately, even if this bill becomes law, the FBI is not going to have carte-blanche ability to snoop whenever it wants. Sec. 105 of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act states, “A telecommunications carrier shall ensure that any interception of communications or access to call-identifying information effected within its switching premises can be activated only in accordance with a court order or other lawful authorization and with the affirmative intervention of an individual officer or employee of the carrier acting in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Commission.”
Does the FBI really want backdoors?
More importantly, do you?
What can you do—you are only one person? True, but you are only “six degrees of separation,” on average, from any other person on Earth. You become powerful when you share information with your friends and ask them to share it with their friends—it becomes a global revolution. As Stephen King suggests in The Long Walk, when these “society-supported sociopaths” come, step aside, and find the strength to run…