Congress group agrees with Apple: Encryption backdoors are a security threat

21 Dec 20161 Share

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A Congressional working group agrees with the Apple assertion that encryption backdoors are a bad idea for security. Image: Denis Kuvaev/Shutterstock

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Apple got a Christmas present from the House Judiciary Committee of the US Congress, which agrees encryption backdoors are a security threat.

In a year-end report the House Judiciary Committee, a bipartisan congressional panel, recommended that the US is better advised to support strong encryption, rather than weakening it by putting backdoors into tech products.

This puts the House Judiciary Committee at odds with the FBI, which is in favour of backdoors in tech products and services.

‘Congress cannot stop bad actors – at home or overseas – from adopting encryption. Therefore, the committees should explore other strategies to address the needs of the law enforcement community’
– HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE

In its report, the committee appears to be agreeing with Apple CEO Tim Cook’s warning that putting encryption backdoors into tech products puts everyone at risk.

The encryption working group, made up of members of the two house committees, was formed in the wake of the San Bernardino killings in the US.

Apple v FBI

The investigation into the killings centred on an iPhone belonging to one of the killers, and the FBI’s attempts to get Apple to back down on encryption caused a furious row.

The report sides with Apple and its stance on strong encryption.

However, it also acknowledges that encryption has become an obstacle for law enforcement.

“Congressional action in this space should weigh any short-term benefits against the long-term impacts to the national interest,” the report said.

“Congress cannot stop bad actors – at home or overseas – from adopting encryption. Therefore, the committees should explore other strategies to address the needs of the law enforcement community.”

Encryption is important for personal, economic, and national security, said the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) in the wake of the report’s publication.

“This report is welcome news for those who care about personal, economic, and national security,” said CCIA CEO Ed Black.

“We are glad that after close examination of the security and technical issues, these leading lawmakers understand the considerable stakes and support strong encryption.

“Deploying weakened forms of encryption in online services and consumer devices is short-sighted and would play directly into the hands of those who would do us harm.”

Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com