Criminalizing Encryption

Encryption

Encryption

Today we live in a world saturated with technology. What this means is that electronic security is a constant point of concern, not just for the IT industry, spies, or corporations, but for everyone who owns a phone, computer, car, or any other electronic device that has networking capability. And with the Internet of Things on the horizon, even everyday household items may become vulnerable to hackers.

Not all hacking is bad, The Internet of Things will give citizens unprecedented control over their own lives, some of these citizens will hack these everyday objects to fit the exact parameters that they wish for them to. Unfortunately, not everyone’s goals are so noble. Criminals have much to gain from hijacking control of elements of your life and turning them toward their own personal gain. Corporations have much to gain from having free access to your information so they can market to your more effectively. And governments have much to gain from knowing what everyone is doing, all the time, not just to deter crime, but also to suppress dissent. Welcome to the future. Welcome to the cyberpunk now.

Outlawing Encryption

The FBI used to maintain a page that gave advice on how and why to encrypt your devices to protect yourself from criminals. Recently, they discreetly removed this advice from their site, and simultaneously have begun working toward outlawing strong encryption. And it’s not just the FBI. One of the revelations to come out of the Snowden leaks has shown that the NSA and GCHQ have been attempting to breach encryption of all kinds. And in the UK, it has become effectively illegal to use strong encryption.

In effect, police and intelligence agencies want unbridled access to everything we do. There are a lot of problems with this. Many legitimate reasons exist for using encryption, and if a government can crack your encryption, so can any criminal. People may have sensitive information that they don’t want to share, such as in sexual assault cases. Corporations have reason to protect their trade secrets, so that competitors don’t under cut them or steal and implement their ideas first. Activists, journalists, and political dissidents are often targets for suppression, and encryption remains one of the most effective ways to remain free from this kind of suppression. Entities like our government, and corporations want complete access to our lives, and zero of the accountability that comes with this power. If it wasn’t for the efforts of a series of brave new outlaws, we wouldn’t know half of what is going on in the world.

Some great examples of these modern outlaws are Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, and Julian Assange. Bradley Manning brought light to corruption and government cover-ups that occurred during the Afghanistan War, and for his trouble he still be detained in prison. Edward Snowden revealed the depths of surveillance that the NSA has subjected the entirety of the world to, and for his trouble he now lives in exile in Russia. Julian Assange has played a major role in exposing wrong doing in many countries, and even of corporations engaging in unlawful behavior, for his trouble he now lives in asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy located in London, and has done so, for four years.

Encryption Works

A great example of encryption being deployed in a powerful way is the TOR network. The NSA and GCHQ have devoted untold resources to compromising the TOR network, but because of the powerful built-in encryption that TOR uses, these efforts have remained mostly fruitless. There have been slip ups in security, because of human error, but these problems have been remedied quickly and the system has remained resilient against attack from the outside.

This is why one of the solutions that has been proposed to not only keep the Internet free and secure, but also allow users to maintain their privacy, is to implement strong blanket encryption all across the Internet. This is the solution presented by Reset The Net. In the mean time, the individual is responsible for their own security, privacy, and freedom online. It is not, and will not be provided for you. Below, I have included a list of resources that will help you to protect yourself, and take an active role in preserving your privacy and freedom.

Resources

Reset the Net – Privacy Pack: https://pack.resetthenet.org/

Surveillance Self Defense: https://ssd.eff.org/

PRISM Break: https://prism-break.org/en/

Email Self Defense: https://emailselfdefense.fsf.org/en/

Fixtracking: http://fixtracking.com/

TOR Network: https://www.torproject.org/

Share This Post
Veritas is a cyberpunk and writer who enjoys all aspects of the cyberpunk genre and subculture. He also journeys deeply into the recesses of the dissonance exploring his nihilistic existence. If you'd like to contact Isaac L. Wheeler (Veritas), the founder and editor-in-chief of Neon Dystopia, you can do so here: ilwheeler.founder@neondystopia.com
4 Comments
  1. I’ve ran a Tor middle node in the past but stopped doing it as Tor gets way too much abuse (child porn, criminal activities, illegal trading, etc). I’m of the opinion that hidden services functionality in Tor should be removed entirely as there’s no way in controlling what a user uses it for. The Tor devs are of other opinion of course and want to provide that functionality. I may consider setting up Tor again in the future, though. We’ll see…

    Reply
  2. You guys understand that the “internet of things” is a gimmick at best, and at worst a novel way of inserting more monitoring devices into your home, right?
    Does your dishwasher really need to talk to a hub computer, and then to anything else?
    what would it say, that it couldn’t say to itself, or to a screen and thus to you?

    Of other applications, perhaps medical devices might be useful to have this functionality? Maybe. But my fridge? My alarm clock?

    There’s a good reason I still use cash.

    Reply
  3. Cyberpunk luminary Bruce Sterling recently released a book entitled “The Epic Struggle of the Internet of Things” in which he argues:

    “The standard IoT pitch – about the reader’s smart, chatty refrigerator – is a fairy tale. It’s like the promise of a talking chicken in every pot. Politically speaking, the relationship of the reader to the Internet of Things is not democratic. It’s not even capitalistic. It’s a new thing. It’s digital-feudalism. People in the Internet of Things are like the woolly livestock of a feudal demesne, grazing under the watchful eye of barons in their hilltop Cloud Castles. The peasants never vote for the lords of the Cloud Castles. But they do find them attractive and glamorous. They respect them. They feel a genuine fealty to them. They can’t get along in life without them.
    This is not what people expected from “the internet” back when it was a raw, anarchic, electronic frontier. But that was then, this is now. The internet has seen a full generation’s worth of political, economic and social development. The feudal lords of popular mass computation, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook, are colossal enterprises today. They can dominate by virtue of their sheer bulk. They are global, gargantuan entities with the power and the revenue to dwarf most national governments.”

    Sound cyberpunk to you?

    Reply
  4. I’d also point out that none of the arguments being used against encryption are new – back in the “crypto-wars” of the 1990s, the US government tried to classify encryption algorithms as munitions and equate them with weapons of mass destruction. There were serious discussions about key escrow which would require companies and individuals to give the government a copt of their private encryption keys. Also, the recent SSL/TLS vulnerability known as FREAK was a direct result of attempts back in that period by the US government to weaken the encryption algorithms used on the Internet so that the NSA and FBI could intercept HTTPS connections between vulnerable clients and servers. Unfortunately, the vulnerable ciphers are still supported by modern browsers, and it is possible to trick them into using them.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>