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Backdoors are bad, Euro security wonks ENISA tell governments

And also futile: how on earth could Europe stop its citizens downloading crypto tools?

The European Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) has weighed into the cryptography debate, warning that crimping cryptography will “create vulnerabilities that can in turn be used by criminals and terrorists”.

Its January-dated but just-released paper states boldly that “unprotected communication becomes a threat” in a society depending on trustworthy services.

“The potential for abuse ranges from simple criminal activities such as burglary during leave to targeted attacks on public personas to destabilise social peace”, the paper states.

While the paper agrees that lawful interception is important, and that encryption gets in the way, there isn't a technical cure that isn't worse than the disease.

Key escrow gets dropped in the proverbial bin. There are currently no implementations that work, and using key escrow would “imply fundamental changes of the telecommunication infrastructure”.

Key escrow is also a threat to evidence-gathering: if an attacker obtains someone's private key, they can perfectly impersonate the individual. That ruins the evidence – or, in the language of the paper, it would undermine “the quality of evidence that is gathered”.

ENISA reiterates another warning that's been given by many cryptographers: laws banning encryption are easy to bypass.

A ban would be impossible to enforce, there already exists a “vast amount of tools”, and algorithms are publicly available and well documented, so “an average skilled programmer could implement them.”

Even if a snoop had a wiretap, good crypto is indistinguishable from random noise, making it hard to prove that a target was using some kind of forbidden technology (and that's ignoring what's available in steganography).

Rather than trying to ban encryption, ENISA says “the regulatory framework on digital products needs to encourage industry to provide trustworthy services by the use of technological protection measures.” ®

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