Now FBI Wants Back Door to All Software

WND – by Bob Unruh

The FBI is unhappy that there are communications technologies that it cannot intercept, and wants a new requirement that software makers and communications companies create a back door so they can listen in when they want.

But a team of technology experts warns that would to nothing more than hand over to the nation’s enemies abilities they are not capable of developing for themselves.

According to a recent report in the Washington Post, the issue is being raised by the FBI because “there is currently no way to wiretap some of these communications methods easily, and companies effectively…”

The solution, according to the FBI, is a plan to fine companies when they fail to comply with wiretap orders, essentially requiring all companies to build a back door for wiretap capabilities into all their communications links.

“The importance to us is pretty clear,” FBI general counsel Andrew Weissman said in the report. “We don’t have the ability to go to court and say, ‘We need a court order to effectuate the intercept.’”

But a report at the Center for Democracy & Technology warns of the unintended consequences.

“Wiretap functionality allows covert access to communications that can be exploited not only by law enforcement, but by criminals, terrorists, and foreign military and intelligence agencies,” the report said. “Wiretap endpoints will be vulnerable to exploitation and difficult to secure.”

It cited a report called CALEA II: Risks of Writetap Modifications to Endpoints.”

It was being assembled just about the time the U.S. government was caught accessing telephone records for the Associated Press and describing a prominent journalist for Fox News as a potential criminal.

The participants included high-profile leaders in the field including Matt Blaze from the University of Pennsylvania, Edward Felten of Princeton, Matthew D. Green of Johns Hopkins, J. Alex Halderman of the University of Michigan, and dozens more.

It explained that there are some drawbacks to the idea of expanding wiretap design laws to Internet services.

“Mandating wiretap capabilities in endpoints poses serious security risks,” the report said. “Requiring software vendors to build intercept functionality into their products is unwise and will be ineffective, with the result being serious consequences for the economic well-being and national security of the United States.”

Just what kind of “serious consequences”?

“The FBI’s desire to expand CALEA mandates amounts to developing for our adversaries capabilities that they may not have the competence, access, or resources to develop on their own,” the report said.

CALEA is the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, which already requires some electronic surveillance possibilities. It’s the plan the FBI wants to expand to include all digital forms of communication, including Skype, VoIP services, and others.

The London Daily Mail recently reported that those technologies are hard to track because they convert analogue audio signals into digital data packets, which would have to be retrieved and reassembled.

The team of experts said besides allowing criminals and terrorists into the networks, the strategy would require software companies to have employees do the wiretapping or give away their company secrets to law enforcement agencies.

“Finally, the wiretap capability that the FBI seeks will be ineffective because it is easily disabled and because knock-off products that lack the wiretap functionality can be readily downloaded from websites abroad. Because many of the tools that people use to communicate are built on open standards and open source software, it will be trivial to remove or disable wiretap functionality,” the report said.

According to the Post report, the draft proposal would let a court levy escalating fines against a company – fines that could double daily.

“This proposal is a non-starter that would drive innovators overseas and cost American jobs,” Greg Nojeim, a senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, told the Post.

“They might as well call it the Cyber Insecurity and Anti-Employment Act.”

2 thoughts on “Now FBI Wants Back Door to All Software

  1. These morons are out of their minds. Sure, they may get the spy tap on the big companies, but there are literally millions of programmers out here that could whip up our own crap and give it away for free, that would never be stopped. Especially open source going beyond what is stated in the article in the area of giving away the entire program for free, not just bits and pieces. LoL, what a bunch of low-tech retards to think this is even a remote possibility. Just a bunch of control freaks on steroids with delusions of grandeur. Don’t these idiots have a patsy terrorist they created to go and pretend to stop?

    1. Amen! It’s like the Feeble Box of Idiots doesn’t understand the concept of open-source comms software.

      Another way to look at it, make a secret deal with one or more well-known comms software companies, (Skype?) to build in a server port and key and master endpoint protocol. Then make a great hue and cry to the news and blogs how maddeningly secure the technology is to “cattle dog” all the sheep with secrets to keep onto the technologies you do have control over.

      The canny sheep will roll their own. The weakness of secretly cracking a comms channel thought to be secure is that the astute enemy will seed the channel with false data to cause a reaction which can be monitored. Even if that doesn’t happen, the first big bust that must have relied on taps of a particular technology will drive secret keepers away.

      The spoils of the encrypted comms game definitely go to the non-lazy practitioners. Judging from the Bore and Stroke of the sorts of terror suspects the FBI usually entrap, these people may not even be aware that they are even ever communicating electronically at all, much less securely.

      If the “law” changes the FBI will probably outsource the intercepts to Israeli comms companies anyway. Should be good for a laugh.

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