Mouthpiece Of The Establishment

I did my best to avoid it but ended up reading a particularly wrong-headed article in the Washington Post anyway: Compromise needed on smartphone encryption. In it, the editors of that mouthpiece of the establishment argue that citizens protecting their data from all who would steal it are somehow interfering with the ostensibly legitimate aims of law enforcement. Here’s the most curious bit:

How to resolve this? A police “back door” for all smartphones is undesirable — a back door can and will be exploited by bad guys, too. However, with all their wizardry, perhaps Apple and Google could invent a kind of secure golden key they would retain and use only when a court has approved a search warrant.

It’s a nice bit of sleight of mouth, that. How could a “secure golden key” be anything but a back door? It would be a secret means by which certain entities could take control of a computing device against the will of that device’s lawful owner, and that is the definition of a back door. But WaPo jiggered the words to make the notion palatable to those they consider the unthinking masses, and there surely are those who are sufficiently unthinking to swallow it.

We could debate the trustworthiness of governments and law enforcement agencies until we’re blue in our faces, but in the end the fact remains that there is absolutely no technical distinction between “back door” and “secure golden key”. If there’s a backdoor it will be discovered by parties who did not install it, just as unintentional security vulnerabilities like Heartbleed and Shellshock and thousands more have been and will continue to be discovered.

I’m going to leave this topic now and without discussing why I believe my absolute distrust of law enforcement is the only rational approach. Surprising, isn’t it?

Be well, friends and neighbors. Encrypt everything.


10 thoughts on “Mouthpiece Of The Establishment

  1. sunsetdragon

    Oh hell now they are going to watch an dear me making an ass of myself on face time talking to my great grand baby.
    Geez. 😯

  2. whyzat

    Watching “Person of Interest” makes me even more paranoid.
    IT seems that Facebook has or can get allof our info, anyway, and lots of us are on Facebook, so the FBI just needs to serve a warrant in order to see our vacation pictures and comments on friends’ posts! No, I understand the worry. It’s just that lots of us use the Internet who only know how to push the buttons and not what happens between the push and the picture on the screen.
    This is just another thing that makes me hope I’m dead by the time the shit hits the fan.

    1. happierheathen Post author

      “The question isn’t whether or not you’re paranoid… it’s whether you’re paranoid enough”. 😀

      My concern is what happens should one lose a phone, perhaps to a thief. If the gubment gets its way, we have to hope that we can do a remote wipe before anything sensitive falls into the hands of the one who’s got possession of the device, and accept the consequences if we cannot. If I get my way, the phone is just a cute thing that cannot easily be gotten into by any random stranger who picks the thing up.

      Anyone who claims that any encryption method suitable for deployment on a general purpose consumer device like a cell phone would thwart federal law enforcement in the conduct of a lawful investigation in which they’ve taken physical possession of the device is either not qualified to speak on the subject or is lying. That said, my primary concern is what happens, say, to my own device should it go missing. Anyone who gets my phone also gets all of my clients’ servers and workstations and the (legally obtained, lawfully used) information stored on them — stuff that no one wants getting loose.

  3. Roadkill Spatula

    They’re starting to set up phones as credit cards and they say it will be safe because a new card number will be generated for each transaction. I think I’ll stick with plastic.

    1. happierheathen Post author

      Pragmatically, any card you actually use is vulnerable no matter how you use it. Physical point of sale systems are no more secure than the average internet payment system, and more credit card numbers are lost to compromises of brick and mortar merchants’ systems than to internet payment systems. Ya rolls yer dice, ya takes yer chances.

      The new chip-and-signature cards will be more secure than current magnetic stripe cards, but chip-and-pin would have been a better implementation, and it won’t be long before the bad guys are cloning chip-and-signature cards just as they’re cloning mag stripe cards now. And they won’t be needing PINs, so we’ll soon be wishing they did. Oh well. Capitalism has never led to optimal outcomes.

      1. Roadkill Spatula

        Yeah, I know I’m vulnerable no matter what I use. Having my wallet disappear would trigger a major crisis in my life, but I continue to carry half a dozen cards and my DL in my pocket everywhere I go.


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