Encryption will leave US open to ISIS attacks ‘indefinitely’

9 Jul 2015

In what is rather unsurprising news, the US government and specifically its law enforcement heads believe that encryption software is only aiding those who have something to hide, particularly criminals and terrorists.

The comments come from FBI director James Comey and the US deputy attorney-general Sally Quillian Yates, who were speaking before a Senate committee discussing the practice of protecting data in the interest of national security.

Companies like Apple and Google are now promising to ensure greater levels of encryption for their services following the revelations of Edward Snowden and his revealing of the US-company data-sharing partnership PRISM that passed on customer data to authorities.

If these new systems are in place, the US government will not be able to effectively monitor a particular user or group of users and, unsurprisingly, it thinks this is a bad thing, so much so that Quillian Yates described it to the Senate as a “real national security problem”.

According to AFP, Quillian Yates has called for these major companies, and others, to speak with the US government to come to some solution that will allow for some data to be kept despite their previous claims of privacy.

The US government needs to “work with industry to find solutions for each company rather than a one-size-fits-all,” she said.

Encryption is bad, m’kay?

Enforcing the point, FBI director Comey said that terrorist groups like the Islamic State (ISIS) will be helped by the fact that greater encryption software will be aiding its efforts more effectively now that “our tools are becoming increasingly ineffective.”

For added effect, Comey said that if companies like Google and Apple were to go ahead with their plans for increased levels of encryption, the entire US would be left open to ISIS attacks “indefinitely”.

This isn’t the first time, of course, that US authorities have issued such statements, with a former lawyer for the NSA coming out against encryption software last November and the FBI again asking for greater access to messaging services WhatsApp and Kik last month.

FBI headquarters image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic