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Internet Encryption


Encryption, essential for security but givernments don't see it that way


 

Encryption protects internet users from snoopers, censors, spammers, scammers and thieves...

But children's campaigners are arguing that we should not be so protected...


Link Here9th February 2020
  Facebook is moving ahead with plans to implement end to end encryption on Facebook Messenger and Instagram to protect users from snoopers, censors, spammers, scammers and thieves.

But children's campaign groups are opposing these safety measures on the grounds the encryption will also protect those illegally distributing child abuse material.

About 100 organisations, led by the NSPCC, have signed an open letter warning the plans will undermine efforts to catch abusers.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she fully supported the move, presumably also thinking of the state's wider remit to snoop on people's communications.

End-to-end encryption, already used on Facebook-owned WhatsApp, means no-one, including the company that owns the platform, can see the content of sent messages. The technology will make it significantly less likely that hackers will be able to intercept messages, going a long way to protect users from phishing and cyber-stalking. And of course child internet users will also benefit from these protections.

The campaign group opposed such protection arguing:

We urge you to recognise and accept that an increased risk of child abuse being facilitated on or by Facebook is not a reasonable trade-off to make.

A spokesman for Facebook said protecting the wellbeing of children on its platform was critically important to it. He said:

We have led the industry in safeguarding children from exploitation and we are bringing this same commitment and leadership to our work on encryption

We are working closely with child-safety experts, including NCMEC [the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children], law enforcement, governments and other technology companies, to help keep children safe online.

In 2018, Facebook made 16.8 million reports of child sexual exploitation and abuse content to the NCMEC. The National Crime Agency said this had led to more than 2,500 arrests and 3,000 children made safe.

 

 

Offsite Article: EFF's Year in Review...


Link Here29th December 2019
Fancy New Terms, Same Old Backdoors: The Encryption Debate in 2019. By Joe Mullin

See article from eff.org

 

 

Offsite Article: Hold on, isn't that one of the EFF's warning how the authorities work around encryption...


Link Here13th November 2019
Apple's Siri caught squirelling away an unencrypted local copy of your encrypted emails

See article from medium.com

 

 

Adding Client-Side Image/Message Scanning Breaks End-To-End Encryption...

Mischievous snoopers are suggesting that encrypted messages should be pre-scanned in the name of protecting children


Link Here3rd November 2019

Recent attacks on encryption have diverged. On the one hand, we've seen Attorney General William Barr call for "lawful access" to encrypted communications, using arguments that have barely changed since the 1990's . But we've also seen suggestions from a different set of actors for more purportedly "reasonable" interventions , particularly the use of client-side scanning to stop the transmission of contraband files, most often child exploitation imagery (CEI).

Sometimes called "endpoint filtering" or "local processing," this privacy-invasive proposal works like this: every time you send a message, software that comes with your messaging app first checks it against a database of "hashes," or unique digital fingerprints, usually of images or videos. If it finds a match, it may refuse to send your message, notify the recipient, or even forward it to a third party, possibly without your knowledge.

On their face, proposals to do client-side scanning seem to give us the best of all worlds: they preserve encryption, while also combating the spread of illegal and morally objectionable content.

But unfortunately it's not that simple. While it may technically maintain some properties of end-to-end encryption, client-side scanning would render the user privacy and security guarantees of encryption hollow . Most important, it's impossible to build a client-side scanning system that can only be used for CEI. As a consequence, even a well-intentioned effort to build such a system will break key promises of the messenger's encryption itself and open the door to broader abuses. This post is a technical deep dive into why that is.

A client-side scanning system cannot be limited to CEI through technical means

Imagine we want to add client-side scanning to WhatsApp. Before encrypting and sending an image, the system will need to somehow check it against a known list of CEI images.

The simplest possible way to implement this: local hash matching. In this situation, there's a full CEI hash database inside every client device. The image that's about to be sent is hashed using the same algorithm that hashed the known CEI images, then the client checks to see if that hash is inside this database. If the hash is in the database, the client will refuse to send the message (or forward it to law enforcement authorities).

At this point, this system contains a complete mechanism to block any image content. Now, anyone with the ability to add an item to the hash database can require the client to block any image of their choice. Since the database contains only hashes, and the hashes of CEI are indistinguishable from hashes of other images, code that was written for a CEI-scanning system cannot be limited to only CEI by technical means.

Furthermore, it will be difficult for users to audit whether the system has been expanded from its original CEI-scanning purpose to limit other images as well, even if the hash database is downloaded locally to client devices. Given that CEI is illegal to possess, the hashes in the database would not be reversible.

This means that a user cannot determine the contents of the database just by inspecting it, only by individually hashing every potential image to test for its inclusion--a prohibitively large task for most people. As a result, the contents of the database are effectively unauditable to journalists, academics, politicians, civil society, and anyone without access to the full set of images in the first place.

Client-side scanning breaks the promises of end-to-end encryption

Client-side scanning mechanisms will break the fundamental promise that encrypted messengers make to their users: the promise that no one but you and your intended recipients can read your messages or otherwise analyze their contents to infer what you are talking about . Let's say that when the client-side scan finds a hash match, it sends a message off to the server to report that the user was trying to send a blocked image. But as we've already discussed, the server has the ability to put any hash in the database that it wants.

Given that online content is known to follow long-tail distributions , a relatively small set of images comprises the bulk of images sent and received. So, with a comparatively small hash database, an external party could identify the images being sent in a comparatively large percentage of messages.

As a reminder, an end-to-end encrypted system is a system where the server cannot know the contents of a message, despite the client's messages passing through it. When that same server has direct access to effectively decrypt a significant portion of messages, that's not end-to-end encryption.

In practice, an automated reporting system is not the only way to break this encryption promise. Specifically, we've been loosely assuming thus far that the hash database would be loaded locally onto the device. But in reality, due to technical and policy constraints, the hash database would probably not be downloaded to the client at all . Instead, it would reside on the server.

This means that at some point, the hash of each image the client wants to send will be known by the server. Whether each hash is sent individually or a Bloom filter is applied, anything short of an ORAM-based system will have a privacy leakage directly to the server at this stage, even in systems that attempt to block, and not also report, images. In other words, barring state-of-the-art privacy-preserving remote image access techniques that have a provably high (and therefore impractical) efficiency cost, the server will learn the hashes of every image that the client tries to send.

Further arguments against client-side scanning

If this argument about image decryption isn't sufficiently compelling, consider an analogous argument applied to the text of messages rather than attached images. A nearly identical system could be used to fully decrypt the text of messages. Why not check the hash of a particular message to see if it's a chain letter, or misinformation ? The setup is exactly the same, with the only change being that the input is text rather than an image. Now our general-purpose censorship and reporting system can detect people spreading misinformation... or literally any text that the system chooses to check against. Why not put the whole dictionary in there, and therefore be able to decrypt any word that users type (in a similar way to this 2015 paper )? If a client-side scanning system were applied to the text of messages, users would be similarly unable to tell that their messages were being secretly decrypted.

Regardless of what it's scanning for, this entire mechanism is circumventable by using an alternative client to the officially distributed one, or by changing images and messages to escape the hash matching algorithm, which will no longer be secret once it's performed locally on the client's device.

These are just the tip of the iceberg of technical critiques, not to mention policy reasons, we shouldn't build a censorship mechanism into a private, secure messenger.

 

 

Offsite Article: Without encryption, we will lose all privacy. This is our new battleground...


Link Here15th October 2019
The US, UK and Australia are taking on Facebook in a bid to undermine the only method that protects our personal information. By Edward Snowden

See article from theguardian.com

 

 

Updated: Is Facebook's 'end to end encryption' worthless?...

UK and US set to sign treaty allowing UK police back door access to WhatsApp and other end to end encrypted messaging platforms


Link Here 1st October 2019
UK police will be able to force US-based social media platforms to hand over users' messages, including those that are end to end encrypted, under a treaty that is set to be signed next month.

According to a report in The Times, investigations into certain 'serious' criminal offenses, will be covered under the agreement between the two countries.

The UK government has been imploring Facebook to create back doors which would enable intelligence agencies to gain access to messaging platforms for matters of national security.

The news of the agreement between the US and UK is sure to ramp up discussion of the effectiveness of end to end encryption when implemented by large corporations. If this report is confirmed and Facebook/police can indeed listen in on 'end to end encryption' then such implementations of encryption are worthless.

Update: Don't jump to conclusions

1st October 2019. See article from techdirt.com

No, The New Agreement To Share Data Between US And UK Law Enforcement Does Not Require Encryption Backdoors

It's no secret many in the UK government want backdoored encryption. The UK wing of the Five Eyes surveillance conglomerate says the only thing that should be absolute is the government's access to communications . The long-gestating Snooper's Charter frequently contained language mandating lawful access, the government's preferred nomenclature for encryption backdoors. And officials have, at various times, made unsupported statements about how no one really needs encryption , so maybe companies should just stop offering it.

What the UK government has in the works now won't mandate backdoors, but it appears to be a way to get its foot in the (back)door with the assistance of the US government. An agreement between the UK and the US -- possibly an offshoot of the Cloud Act -- would mandate the sharing of encrypted communications with UK law enforcement, as Bloomberg reports .

Sharing information is fine. Social media companies have plenty of information. What they don't have is access to users' encrypted communications, at least in most cases. Signing an accord won't change that. There might be increased sharing of encrypted communications but it doesn't appear this agreement actually requires companies to decrypt communications or create backdoors.

 

 

Offsite Article: Encryption is dead at the hands of Facebook...


Link Here 29th July 2019
If Facebook can 'filter' or 'backup' your 'encrypted' communications then this proves that encryption is compromised, as does continued operation in any country that demands backdoors

See article from forbes.com

 

 

Offsite Article: Don't Let Encrypted Messaging Become a Hollow Promise...


Link Here 20th July 2019
The EFF publishes a technical discussion on how the authorities are circumventing encryption used by messaging services

See article from eff.org

 

 

Offsite Article: Censorship by the back door...


Link Here29th May 2019
Facebook Is Already Working Towards Germany's End-to-End Encryption Backdoor Vision

See article from forbes.com

 

 

Standard US practice...

International standards organisation fends of US pressure to implement seemingly backdoored US encryption standards for the Internet of Things


Link Here26th April 2018
Two new encryption algorithms developed by the US NSA have been rejected by an international standards body amid accusations of threatening behavior.

The Simon and Speck cryptographic tools were designed for encryption of the Internet of Things and were intended to become a global standard.

But the pair of techniques were formally rejected earlier this week by the International Organization of Standards (ISO) amid concerns that they contained a backdoor that would allow US spies to break the encryption. The process was also marred by complaints from encryption experts of threatening behavior from American snoops.

When some of the design choices made by the NSA were questioned by experts, the US response was to personally attack the questioners. While no one has directly accused the NSA of inserting backdoors into the new standards, that was the clear suspicion, particularly when it refused to give what experts say was a normal level of technical detail. It took 3 years for the ISO to extract technical details about the encryption. But by then the trust had been undermined and the vote went against the standards at a meeting in the US late last year.

 

 

Update: Opening a new front in the war against internet censorship...

Signal encrypted messaging app acts to counter blocking by internet censors in Egypt and UAE


Link Here22nd December 2016
Signal, an encrypted messaging apt for mobile devices had its service blocked in Egypt and UAE.

Now Signal have responded by making a new release available to those territories that should make the censors thinks twice before reaching for the block option.

The new Signal release uses a technique known as domain fronting. Many popular services and CDNs, such as Google, Amazon Cloudfront, Amazon S3, Azure, CloudFlare, Fastly, and Akamai can be used to access Signal in ways that look indistinguishable from other uncensored traffic. The idea is that to block the target traffic, the censor would also have to block those entire services. With enough large scale services acting as domain fronts, disabling Signal starts to look like disabling the internet. When users in the two countries send a Signal message, it will look like a normal HTTPS request to www.google.com. To block Signal messages, these countries would also have to block all of google.com.

Update: Cuba and Oman

1st January 2017 See  article from engadget.com

Signal , the messaging app that prides itself on circumventing government censorship, has a few new places where its flagship feature works. Last week it was Egypt, and now users in Cuba and Oman can send messages without fear of them being intercepted and altered by lawmakers.

 

 

Update: Endangering the people...

Hungary proposes that people should be denied the security of encryption and be more open to scammers and thieves


Link Here10th April 2016
The Hungarian ruling party wants to ban all working crypto. The parliamentary vice-president from Fidesz has asked parliament to:

Ban communication devices that [law enforcement agencies] are not able to surveil despite having the legal authority to do so.

Since any working cryptographic system is one that has no known vulnerabilities, whose key length is sufficient to make brute force guessing impractical within the lifespan of the universe, this amounts to a ban on all file-level encryption and end-to-end communications encryption, as well as most kinds of transport encryption (for example, if your browser makes a SSL connection to a server that the Hungarian government can't subpoena, it would have no means of surveiling your communication).

 

 

Update: Endangering the people...

The US proposes that people should be denied the security of encryption and be more open to scammers and thieves


Link Here10th April 2016
A draft copy of a US law to criminalize strong encryption has been leaked online. And the internet is losing its shit.

The proposed legislation hasn't been formally published yet: the document is still being hammered out by the Senate intelligence select committee. The proposal reads:

The underlying goal is simple, when there's a court order to render technical assistance to law enforcement or provide decrypted information, that court order is carried out. No individual or company is above the law. We're still in the process of soliciting input from stakeholders and hope to have final language ready soon.

The draft legislation, first leaked to Washington DC insider blog The Hill, is named the Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016 , and would require anyone who makes or programs a communications product in the US to provide law enforcement with any data they request in an intelligible format, when presented with a court order.

The bill stems from Apple's refusal to help the FBI break into the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone, but goes well beyond that case. The bill would require companies to either build a backdoor into their encryption systems or use an encryption method that can be broken by a third party.

On example of the tech community response was from computer forensics expert Jonathan Dziarski who said:

The absurdity of this bill is beyond words. Due to the technical ineptitude of its authors, combined with a hunger for unconstitutional governmental powers, the end result is a very dangerous document that will weaken the security of America's technology infrastructure.

Update: Pakistan and Turkey too

12th April 2016. See article from vocativ.com

At least two other countries--Pakistan and Turkey--already have versions of such laws on the books. The Pakistan Telecommunications Authority has previously instructed the country's internet service providers to ban encrypted communication, though it's largely VPN use, which can be used to circumvent location-based internet censorship, that has been actively restricted there, and WhatsApp is still popular. Turkey takes the anti-encryption law on its books more seriously, and used it to initially charge Vice journalists arrested in southeastern Turkey in September 2015.

Meanwhile, France's National Assembly passed a bill in May to update its Penal Code to fine companies that don't find a way to undo their own encryption when served with a warrant in a terrorism investigation. The french? Senate version of this bill excludes this provision, and seven members from each house will now begin a compromise.

Update: Bill stalls

13th May 2016. See article from click.actionnetwork.org

Thanks to the attention brought to the importance of encryption via Apple vs FBI from Fight for the Future and other strong voices, Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016 - one of the worst national security bills ever drafted - is stalled.

 

 

Update: Desnoopered...

WhatsApp announces the use of encryption for all calls and file transfers


Link Here6th April 2016
Messaging app WhatsApp has announced that it has added encryption for all voice calls and file transfers for all users.

It renders messages generally unreadable if they are intercepted, for example by criminals or law enforcement. No doubt if the security services throw all their computing might at a message then they may be able to decrypt it by brute force.

The Facebook-owned company said protecting private communication of its one billion users worldwide was one of its core beliefs . Whatsapp said:

The idea is simple: when you send a message, the only person who can read it is the person or group chat that you send that message to. No one can see inside that message. Not cybercriminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us.

Users with the latest version of the app were notified about the change when sending messages on Tuesday. The setting is enabled by default.

Users should be aware that snoopers can still see a whole host of non-content data about the communication, such as who was using the app, who was being called, and for how long.

Amnesty International called the move a huge victory for free speech:

Whatsapp's roll out of the Signal Protocol, providing end to end encryption for its one billion users worldwide, is a major boost for people's ability to express themselves and communicate without fear.

This is a huge victory for privacy and free speech, especially for activists and journalists who depend on strong and trustworthy communications to carry out their work without putting their lives at greater risk.

 

 

Petition: Strong encryption keeps us safe from hackers and thieves...

An open letter to the leaders of the world's governments signed by organizations, companies, and individuals


Link Here 23rd January 2016
An open letter to the leaders of the world's governments SIGNED by organizations, companies, and individuals:

We encourage you to support the safety and security of users, companies, and governments by strengthening the integrity of communications and systems. In doing so, governments should reject laws, policies, or other mandates or practices, including secret agreements with companies, that limit access to or undermine encryption and other secure communications tools and technologies.

  • Governments should not ban or otherwise limit user access to encryption in any form or otherwise prohibit the implementation or use of encryption by grade or type;
  • Governments should not mandate the design or implementation of "backdoors" or vulnerabilities into tools, technologies, or services;
  • Governments should not require that tools, technologies, or services are designed or developed to allow for third-party access to unencrypted data or encryption keys;
  • Governments should not seek to weaken or undermine encryption standards or intentionally influence the establishment of encryption standards except to promote a higher level of information security. No government should mandate insecure encryption algorithms, standards, tools, or technologies; and
  • Governments should not, either by private or public agreement, compel or pressure an entity to engage in activity that is inconsistent with the above tenets.

Organizations

Access Now, ACI-Participa, Advocacy for Principled Action in Government, Alternative Informatics Association, Alternatives, Alternatives Canada, Alternatives International, American Civil Liberties Union, American Library Association, Amnesty International, ARTICLE 19, La Asociación Colombiana de Usuarios de Internet, Asociación por los Derechos Civiles, Asociatia pentru Tehnologie si Internet (ApTI), Association for Progressive Communications (APC), Association for Proper Internet Governance, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, Australian Privacy Foundation, Benetech, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Bits of Freedom, Blueprint for Free Speech, Bolo Bhi, the Centre for Communication Governance at National Law University Delhi, Center for Democracy and Technology, Center for Digital Democracy, Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights, the Center for Internet and Society (CIS), Center for Media, Data and Society at the School of Public Policy of Central European University, Center for Technology and Society at FGV Rio Law School, Chaos Computer Club, CivSource, Committee to Protect Journalists, Constitutional Alliance, Constitutional Communications, Consumer Action, Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Watchdog, ContingenteMX, Courage Foundation, Críptica, Datapanik.org, Defending Dissent Foundation, Digitalcourage, Digitale Gesellschaft, Digital Empowerment Foundation, Digital Rights Foundation, DSS216, Electronic Frontier Finland, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Electronic Frontiers Australia, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Engine, Enjambre Digital, Eticas Research and Consulting, European Digital Rights, Fight for the Future, Föreningen för digitala fri- och rättigheter (DFRI), Foundation for Internet and Civic Culture (Thai Netizen Network), Freedom House, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Freedom to Read Foundation, Free Press, Free Press Unlimited, Free Software Foundation, Fundacion Acceso, Future of Privacy Forum, Future Wise, Globe International Center, The Global Network Initiative (GNI), Global Voices Advox, Government Accountability Project, Hiperderecho, Hivos, Human Rights Foundation, Human Rights Watch, Institute for Technology and Society of Rio (ITS Rio), Instituto Demos, the International Modern Media Institute (IMMI), International Press Institute (IPI), Internet Democracy Project, IPDANDETEC, IT for Change , IT-Political Association of Denmark, Jonction, Jordan Open Source Association, Just Net Coalition (JNC), Karisma Foundation, Keyboard Frontline, Korean Progressive Network Jinbonet, Localization Lab, Media Alliance, Modern Poland Foundation, Movimento Mega, Myanmar ICT for Development Organization (MIDO), Net Users' Rights Protection Association (NURPA), New America's Open Technology Institute, Niskanen Center, One World Platform Foundation, OpenMedia, Open Net Korea, Open Rights Group, Panoptykon Foundation, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, Patient Privacy Rights, PEN American Center, PEN International, Pirate Parties International, Point of View, Privacy International, Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, Privacy Times, Protection International, La Quadrature du Net, R3D (Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales), R Street Institute, Reinst8, Restore the Fourth, RootsAction.org, Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC), Security First, SFLC.in, Share Foundation, Simply Secure, Social Media Exchange (SMEX), SonTusDatos (Artículo 12, A.C.), Student Net Alliance, Sursiendo; Comunicación y Cultura Digital, Swiss Open Systems User Group /ch/open, TechFreedom, The Tor Project, Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University, Usuarios Digitales, Viet Tan, Vrijschrift, WITNESS, World Privacy Forum, X-Lab, Xnet, Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum

Sign the petition from securetheinternet.org



 

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