back to article Germany, France lobby hard for terror-busting encryption backdoors – Europe seems to agree

The tech industry has hit back at France and Germany's demands for EU laws requiring secret backdoors in file and communications encryption. Last week, Thomas de Maizière and Bruno Le Roux, respectively the German and French ministers of the interior, sent a letter to the European Commission calling for measures to stem what …

  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Two options

    My old CS professor in high school had two ways of describing this*. They nicely summarize the answer at a "political" level of thinking as manifested by Mr Mazieres and his French counterpart.

    For the ladies: "My dear, there is no such thing as a little bit pregnant"

    For the gentlemen: "You cannot have your dick in both hands and your soul in paradise".

    In any case - they already share all criminal info via the Shengen database, I do not see WTF do they need to share on top of that.

    (*) You were pretty much guaranteed to hear one of these when a student failed to find the correct solution to some perverse variety of a "traveling salesman" via sorting, so he/she tried to do a mix of sorting and enumeration of all combinations

    1. WonkoTheSane
      Headmaster

      Re: Two options

      Option 3: One agency's backdoor is the entire black hat community's catflap.

      1. Baldy50

        Re: Two options

        This subject has come up before and when they leak the code it's a shit storm for us all which they will cos somebody will leave a laptop or other device on a train or somewhere or it gets nicked and possibly they will get hacked because the reward for doing so would be so tempting and lucrative so every black hat and unscrupulous gov will be after it.

        If they do this then it's Whonix or Tails on a separate machine and an air-gapped machine for personal stuff, nothing stored on the online machine, working offline on another machine would be the only way to be safe and could have a big impact on retail sales online if people lose trust in the security of the systems they use.

        Once the OS and all the software programs you need are installed and working who needs security updates?

        If it's air gapped till the next re-install, maybe years later and no Wi-Fi card in it too.

        I mean, not that I'm going to, but if I ordered a 12" black ribbed nobler I'd want it kept a secret (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) reference, good film.

        These guys are supposed to be very good but like all the other stories I've read over the years, nobody gives a shit about your info or data than you and sometimes we can't be trusted either.

        I think I have all my immediate families CV's, photos and stuff backed up on my main machine, there's no way I'm leaving a machine online with all that info on it, put that shit in a caddy and only plug it when needed.

        http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4893132,00.html

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Two options

          If there was a government known backdoor, that information would be sold within days and used by blackhats for years. Government would never admit to it being "in the wild" and blackhats would have no reason to disclose they had access to it.

          Public is then stuck, as usual with the illusion of security.

          1. BillG Silver badge
            Stop

            Re: Two options

            This isn't about national security. This is about the government wanting to pry into your business without a warrant, period.

        2. FSM

          Re: Two options

          That's actually a Red Dwarf reference. You're thinking of the '15" black rubber cock' that Hatchet Harry beats poor Smithy to death with.

          But otherwise, well put!

          1. creepy gecko

            Re: Two options

            Listen to this one then; you open a company called the Arse Tickler's Faggot Fan Club. You take an advert in the back page of some gay mag, advertising the latest in arse-intruding dildos, sell it a bit with, er... I dunno, "does what no other dildo can do until now", latest and greatest in sexual technology. Guaranteed results or money back, all that bollocks. These dills cost twenty-five each; a snip for all the pleasure they are going to give the recipients. They send a cheque to the company name, nothing offensive, er, Bobbie's Bits or something, for twenty-five. You put these in the bank for two weeks and let them clear. Now this is the clever bit. Then you send back the cheques for twenty-five pounds from the real company name, Arse Tickler's Faggot Fan Club, saying sorry, we couldn't get the supply from America, they have sold out. Now you see how many of the people cash those cheques; not a single soul, because who wants his bank manager to know he tickles arses when he is not paying in cheques!

            From IMDB...Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels... quotes

            1. BillG Silver badge
              Mushroom

              Re: Two options

              @creepy gecko wrote: Then you send back the cheques for twenty-five pounds from the real company name, Arse Tickler's...

              I know someone who did this back in the 1970's, and it was in women's magazines. But you left out the most important part - the cheque you send back is a big, oversized cheque in gaudy pink with the company name in large, bold letters, and expires in 30 days. Back before ATMs (remember, kids?) you had to go to the teller to cash these cheques.

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "One agency's backdoor is the entire black hat community's catflap."

        Apparently this concept is too subtle and sophisticated for European (or even USian) leaders and civil servants to grasp.

        The usual reply is "You're smart people, you'll figure it out."

        It seems when the "smart" people tell them it can't be done they don't think they are so smart.

        At heart those is the dream of cops and spooks everywhere to be able to look at what they like, when they like without any kind of due process or oversight.

      3. TheVogon Silver badge

        Re: Two options

        "catflap"

        Gate to elephant house I think you mean.

        Presumably those that care would simply avoid the "compliant" encryption anyway and use stuff that is actually secure....

      4. Someone Else Silver badge
        Gimp

        Re: Two options

        This is probably going to be politically incorrect, and/or just crass, but ...

        Making a backdoor available in security is the digital equivalent of making a backdoor available in sex.

  2. DavCrav Silver badge

    Obviously these people don't understand what's going on, so why doesn't someone give them an analogy?

    What they want is equivalent to car companies producing a Master Key, one that will work on any car anywhere in the world. How exactly do we stop criminals stealing, copying or making another Master Key?

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Better still - make those two come up with a workable solution, one that is passed by those with knowledge in the technical community. Start by laying down the simple rules such as:

      (1) that it must remain secure against other nations and any criminals

      (2) be scalable and applicable to open-source projects like web browsers, etc

      (3) cost less than 0.1 Euro per user to develop, implement and manage.

      Should keep them occupied until the heat death of the universe...

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      It's simply electioneering as both Germany and France have national elections this year. They will have been properly briefed by the experts in their departments and decided to publish anyway: this is the right of politicians.

      Elsewhere the German government is planning that immigrants be forced to hand over their mobile phones when they arrive, ie. infringe their constitutional right to privacy. So, this will obviously be struck down by the constitutional court as, unlike the US, the German constitution doesn't differentiate between German and foreign citizens. Doesn't matter because that will take some time and in the meantime it looks tough.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        They will have been properly briefed by the experts in their departments and decided to publish anyway: this is the right of politicians.

        It is indeed their right to misrepresent reality to the electorate, and they deserve a public slapping for choosing to do so.

        1. Someone Else Silver badge
          Devil

          @Rich 11 --

          They will have been properly briefed by the experts in their departments and decided to publish anyway: this is the right of politicians.

          The EU is now getting its first taste of "alternative facts".

          "Welcome to the NFL, kid!"

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It's simply electioneering as both Germany and France have national elections this year. They will have been properly briefed by the experts in their departments and decided to publish anyway: this is the right of politicians.

        Exactly. This has zero to do with what is realistically possible, it's politics, and in politics you can now say and promise anything you want because those who can actually *USE* their brain and examine the facts will simply be accused of spreading Fake News.

        From the article: As has been pointed out many times, it isn't mathematically or technologically possible to build a backdoor into encryption that is completely exclusive to a select set of people, and can't be found and exploited by others. The only way under today's technology would be to have a key escrow system, and that would fall down if someone with access to the keys were to be bribed or coerced into handing them over.

        The funny thing is, even the heads of collaborative agencies are now quite happy with going on public record that a backdoor is (a) nonsense and (b) impossible without causing more risk rather than less so whichever idiot is now starting to espouse this desire is wilfully demanding something that is impossible to do. Or, put another way, we have another few wannabe Trumps here.

        I'd be careful: these people know there's one borne every minute, and they have no compunction of lying through their teeth to get their vote. We now get to experience what 1933 must have felt like - I just hope we lose these people within the 6 years it took that other chap to *really* start causing trouble. I really don't think we can afford another World War.

        1. veti Silver badge

          The reason we have "wannabe Trumps" now popping up all over the place is, Trump has shown them all that it can be done. Fascism does work.

          That man has done real, quite possibly terminal, damage to democracy as practised in the Western world for the past 75 years.

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

            #OscarsSoWhite, really?

            > Trump a fascist talking point

            Oh my how tired.

            "That man has done real, quite possibly terminal, damage to democracy as practised in the Western world for the past 75 years."

            It's not The God Emperor. "Democracy" has been raped silly by Clinton and Bush. Then dealt a terminal blow by the legendary black actor "Obama The Establishment Construct" in his role as sassy, at-ease POTUS.

            Always remember that people didn't vote for Trump, but against Hillary. And for good reason.

            1. d3vy

              Re: #OscarsSoWhite, really?

              "Always remember that people didn't vote for Trump, but against Hillary. And for good reason"

              That's a bit like shitting in your own hand and throwing it at some one. No one wins in that scenario, Ok Clinton didn't win, but trump did.

              Can we really class that as a victory?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: #OscarsSoWhite, really?

                "Ok Clinton didn't win, but trump did.

                Can we really class that as a victory?"

                Reverse the outcome and your analogy still fits...

                There was no way to win...

                1. Roj Blake Silver badge

                  Re: #OscarsSoWhite, really?

                  Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos

                  - H.J. Simpson.

                  1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

                    Re: #OscarsSoWhite, really?

                    "It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see..."

                    "You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?"

                    "No," said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, "nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people."

                    "Odd," said Arthur, "I thought you said it was a democracy."

                    "I did," said Ford. "It is."

                    "So," said Arthur, hoping he wasn't sounding ridiculously obtuse, "why don't people get rid of the lizards?"

                    "It honestly doesn't occur to them," said Ford. "They've all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they've voted in more or less approximates to the government they want."

                    "You mean they actually vote for the lizards?"

                    "Oh yes," said Ford with a shrug, "of course."

                    "But," said Arthur, going for the big one again, "why?"

                    "Because if they didn't vote for a lizard," said Ford, "the wrong lizard might get in. Got any gin?"

                    "What?"

                    "I said," said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, "have you got any gin?"

                    "I'll look. Tell me about the lizards."

                    Ford shrugged again.

                    "Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them," he said. "They're completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone's got to say it."

                    "But that's terrible," said Arthur.

                    "Listen, bud," said Ford, "if I had one Altairian dollar for every time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of the Universe and say 'That's terrible' I wouldn't be sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin."

                    ― Douglas Adams, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: #OscarsSoWhite, really?

                      "Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them," he said. "They're completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone's got to say it."

                      OMG - so THAT's how Trump got in. It all makes sense now. Well, ~ish..

                  2. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: #OscarsSoWhite, really?

                    Don't blame me, I voted for Kodos

                    For a moment I thought you meant this one, but no. Still, enjoy ze bad Englizsh :).

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: #OscarsSoWhite, really?

              Always remember that people didn't vote for Trump, but against Hillary. And for good reason.

              Given that it's not actually possible to cast a vote against someone, it appears they got what they deserved. It's just a shame they can't go and live somewhere separate from people who DO use their brain.

            3. veti Silver badge

              Re: #OscarsSoWhite, really?

              Look, when I call Trump a fascist, I'm not trying to insult him. I'm just calling him like he very clearly is.

              "Fascism" has many definitions. For instance, Umberto Eco lists 14 characteristics:

              - "The cult of tradition" - four words, "Make America Great Again"

              - "The rejection of modernism" - "global warming HOAX", removal of experts from council of advisors

              - "The cult of action for action's sake" - as in, hastily and poorly written executive orders

              - "Disagreement is treason" - "the dishonest media is a great danger to our country"

              - "Fear of difference" - Google "Mohammed Ali Jr"

              - "Appeal to a frustrated middle class" - "The forgotten man and woman will never be forgotten again"

              - "Obsession with a plot and talking-up of an enemy threat" - "bad hombres", "figure out what's going on over there"

              And so on. The man ticks at least 12 of the 14 boxes.

              Or to consider another definition (Roger Griffin):

              [F]ascism is best defined as a revolutionary form of nationalism, one that sets out to be a political, social and ethical revolution, welding the ‘people’ into a dynamic national community under new elites infused with heroic values. The core myth that inspires this project is that only a populist, trans-class movement of purifying, cathartic national rebirth (palingenesis) can stem the tide of decadence

              Ernest Nolte:

              "Fascism is anti-Marxism which seeks to destroy the enemy by the evolvement of a radically opposed and yet related ideology and by the use of almost identical and yet typically modified methods, always, however, within the unyielding framework of national self-assertion and autonomy."

              Kevin Passmore:

              Fascism is a set of ideologies and practices that seeks to place the nation, defined in exclusive biological, cultural, and/or historical terms, above all other sources of loyalty, and to create a mobilized national community. Fascist nationalism is reactionary in that it entails implacable hostility to socialism and feminism, for they are seen as prioritizing class or gender rather than nation.

              Robert Paxton:

              A form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity

              Seriously, how can you claim he's anything but a fascist?

              1. PNGuinn
                Mushroom

                Politics is a pear

                Politics may be considered as a pear. The "moderate" parties are all clustered around the wide base of the pear and up its sides. Political gravity tends to drag them all down to the bottom of the pear. (In more ways than one.)

                Much time is wasted as doctorates are forged attempting to define the centre of gravity of the bottom of the pit that is at bottom of the pear.

                More sincereish parties try to clamber over the sludge at the bottom / bottom feeders to present a different option. Covered with the slime of the moral compromise below they attempt to cling to various bits of the side of the pear, These reinventors of the political wheel are usually described as "fascist" by the self serving bottom feeding scum and the equally self serving media leaches, many of which totally lost all their integrity writing political theses before sliding down nose first into the trough at the bottom

                Close together owards the ever narrowing top of the pear you find the real extremists. They, at least, have rejected all ideas of democracy, although many have used it as a means to get to where they now cling. They tend to divide into two essentially almost identical groups, but will claim to be totally different, and hate each other almost absolutely. Pathologically antisocial, they often have the words "democratic" and "socialist" in their names.

                OK, invent a better model of political reality.

              2. dbtx Bronze badge

                Re: #OscarsSoWhite, really?

                "Seriously, how can you claim he's anything but a fascist?"

                I can rather easily claim he's a minor annoyance at least, or a symptom of severe antitruth contamination at worst. It's kinda business as usual-- the USA is a religion I stopped subscribing to a long time ago. I'm still here mainly because escape velocity is hard.

          2. fajensen Silver badge
            Coat

            That man has done real, quite possibly terminal, damage to democracy as practiced in the Western world for the past 75 years.

            I highly doubt that .Both the damage and that "we?" have been practicing democracy in the same way for 75 years. Because, if we had, the entire middle east would be totally bombed into rubble by now and all of the worlds goods, resources and services would belong to 5 people. The neoliberal rot only started around 1975 so imagine what they could do with almost 40 years more of that crap?

            Maybe "democracy" should take the election of Donald Trump as a warning and begin getting its shit together and start delivering something more than bennies for the rich and connected and austerity with migrants on top for everyone else?

    3. James 51 Silver badge

      The TSA already has this for luggage and they don't care if their own people steal stuff or other criminals steal stuff as long as you can't secure it against them. Lets face it. Politicians and law enforcement don't care if you're robbed blind or blackmailed with embarrassing information by someone as long as they can do it too and those other people don't step in their toes. If you start painting it as they are weak on security, weak on crime and they want to make it possible to Russia, China and North Korea to steal everything in sight that might get a little back pedalling but not much.

    4. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Might as well also point them in the direction of the TSA and their luggage lock master keys.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transportation_Security_Administration#Luggage_locks

      https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2015/09/tsa_master_keys.html

      https://imgur.com/a/JQD7l

      I mean it's not like there are CAD plans for those keys that can be 3D printed now is it!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Might as well also point them in the direction of the TSA and their luggage lock master keys.

        Yup. I have a slide I use in presentations which has a picture of 7 TSA master keys. It tends to upset officials asking for backdoors :)

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "How exactly do we stop criminals stealing, copying or making another Master Key?"

      dont forget, how does the population revoke the master key when the judiciary decides its being abused by the executive branch of government.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        The reason we have "wannabe Trumps" now popping up all over the place is, Trump has shown them all that it can be done. Fascism does work.

        That man has done real, quite possibly terminal, damage to democracy as practised in the Western world for the past 75 years.

        No, the reason these people exist is because for over a decade problems have existed which have not been adequately addressed in the view of a large percentage of the population, and discussions on an ever increasing number of subjects have been supressed with accusations of thought crime! to reduce allowed debate to "what we agree with", along with tactics of "your either with us or against us!".

        This is what has caused severe and lasting damage to democracy. It worked for years, but there are now more people who say, "screw this, I'm against you at any cost" then can passively agree to be "with you" any longer.

        Instead of admit there is a problem and actually deal with it by reasoned debate, the same people who created the problem double down on the thought crime accusations, and define everybody who disagrees with them as being bigoted, fascist etc.

        By the dictionary definition of the term, a bigot is somebody who refuses to accept contrary views. If your frequently insulting something like two thirds of the population because you don't like their views then sorry to be the one to break it to you, but your actually the bigot by the dictionary definition of the term. (Until it's redefined in the next issue of newspeak)

        If people keep redefining what fascism actually is to the point it's just casually tossed at people who disagree with you on political issues then it renders the term meaningless and makes it difficult to actually identify or oppose genuine dictators because the label has been casually applied to basically half the frigging planet!

        THAT!!! is why you have Trump. That's why Britain is leaving the EU following a free vote. It's simply a political expression of "every action has an equal and opposite reaction" because the people at the political extreme fringes are the only remaining effective opposition to support. You don't like it? Then accept that not everybody who disagrees with you is a Thought-crime-ist and for goodness sake allow people to moderately disagree with you.

        If you do, then a rebuilt political centre will naturally suck off the people who are simply supporting trump etc as an "anybody else" option and we can return to a more sane political environment. If you don't, people like Trump will become the political centre.

    6. Someone Else Silver badge
      Coat

      You actually think your bog-standard bureaucrat is going to understand even that? My, my, you're a trusting soul....

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        "You actually think your bog-standard bureaucrat is going to understand even that? My, my, you're a trusting soul...."

        Well, you gotta trust SOMEONE. Otherwise, civilization can't function and we're basically in Anarchy Mode...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Whats wrong with giving the keys to Law enforcement?

    It's not like they will get into the public domain and a free for all can happen is it? I mean we've had backdoor TSA keys on luggage with out it ever happening.

    What's that Skippy?

    https://techcrunch.com/2016/07/27/security-experts-have-cloned-all-seven-tsa-master-keys/

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Whats wrong with giving the keys to Law enforcement?

      "It's not like they will get into the public domain and a free for all can happen is it? I mean we've had backdoor TSA keys on luggage with out it ever happening."

      It wasn't as if I didn't know the locks weren't any serious form of security. They're just there to keep the latches or zippers opening accidentally and dumping your contents. A serious thief wouldn't care about breaking the suitcase to rummage or simply taking the whole thing since by the time you find out they'll be long gone.

  4. LDS Silver badge

    Just look at where and what the two ministers studied....

    ... and you soon understand they have no idea of what encryption is and how it works. The very issue is this is highly technical matters - requiring a deep, advanced knowledge of mathematics - and are in the hands of people who studied law (where even basic logic is often turned upside down) or in the best case economics - an area where some mathematics is bent to "prove" theories that usually crumble at the next crisis... (Hari Seldon is not born yet...).

    Just., they will never admit they have no clue about what they're talking about - otherwise they wouldn't be politicians.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just look at where and what the two ministers studied....

      "[...] an area where some mathematics is bent to "prove" theories that usually crumble at the next crisis... (Hari Seldon is not born yet...)."

      Even he failed to predict the temporary, but significant, glitch that was "The Mule".

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: Hari Seldon is not born yet...

        "Even he failed to predict the temporary, but significant, glitch that was "The Mule"."

        Although he did predict that there was always room for an anomaly to have a wider impact than anticipated, hence the creation of the second foundation :)

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Just look at where and what the two ministers studied....

      We can't expect them to handle the complex mathematics on which encryption is based (neither can most of us, I suspect; certainly not me) but maybe we could devise a simpler mathematical model to play with. I suggest a block with a 5-sided hole labelled "Back door" and a 6-sided peg labelled "Security Fit For Internet Banking". The objective is to fit them together.

      1. Steve the Cynic

        Re: Just look at where and what the two ministers studied....

        > I suggest a block with a 5-sided hole labelled "Back door" and a 6-sided peg labelled "Security Fit For

        > Internet Banking". The objective is to fit them together.

        If it doesn't fit, Get A Bigger Hammer...

      2. PNGuinn
        Devil

        Re: Just look at where and what the two ministers studied....

        Might I humbly suggest a geometrically simpler model they might be better able to understand?

        Consider a piece of rough hewn timber with 3 holes bored in it, split down the middle, and securely mounted horizontally to a post a few feet off the ground.

        The horizontal split timber is mounted hinged at one end, with a secure clasp at the other with the holes also horizontal.

        Polly's scrawny neck goes into larger centre hole, arms through outer two.

        Clamp 'em shut, lock 'er up and chuck the key down the nearest cess pit.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Just look at where and what the two ministers studied....

            And as for the stocks, people can be crazed enough to break out of them (even if it takes ripping the whole thing out of the ground). Heck, I suspect someday someone will react to the prospect of caning in Singapore by showing so much strength of desperation they'll be forced into deadly force.

      3. DavCrav Silver badge

        Re: Just look at where and what the two ministers studied....

        "We can't expect them to handle the complex mathematics on which encryption is based (neither can most of us, I suspect; certainly not me) "

        I can. I'm a professional mathematician.

        It can't be done.

        But what do I know, I'm only an expert.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. agatum

        Re: Just look at where and what the two ministers studied....

        p.s. Asimov spoiler alert! I thought Hari Seldon set up the Second Foundation to mitigate against stuff like the Mule?

        Spoiler alert! Yes, he did.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just look at where and what the two ministers studied....

      people who studied law (where even basic logic is often turned upside down)

      I disagree. Law works reasonably well - it only gets problematic when politics override justice and basic humanity, and voters acquiesce.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fascism is on the rise...

    Of course the Stasi need to invade your privacy for the benefit of the state.

    Thats what Totalitarian regimes do.

    We used to mock China and North Korea. Now Europe and the US want to be them, and worse.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fascism is on the rise...

      What I find most depressing is that the anti-trump politicians/celebretards are promoting fascism hand-over-fist, whilst at the same time as accusing a democratically elected politician of being 'the death of democracy'.

      Smoke and mirrors. The liberal left have been smoking and looking in the mirror. Everything you hear out of their mouths is basically an admission of what they are up to.

      Unfortunately, reasonable conversation on this subject tends to devolve quite quickly into ad-hominem attacks by those on the anti-trump side of the fence; shutting down debate and telling us that to think 'x' is deplorable etc. etc. whilst at the same time as accusing anyone who *isn't* anti-trump of the very behaviour they are exhibiting themselves.

      If I still did drugs like I did when was a young man, I would seriously believe I had gone insane based on the bollocks and bare-faced lies being spouted by authoritarian fuckwits. As it I believe I have gone insane by default (i.e. I no longer think like the majority, because the majority appear to have slipped a cog and madness is therefore the new baseline for comparison).

      I heard someone talking on Radio 4 this morning and they said something like 'Anyone who supports Donald Trump has mental health issues'. At first I was both surprised and angry, but upon reflection I think he is right, just perhaps not in the way that he meant it. The stress of living in a world run by, and for, utter morons is having a toll on my mental health, so I have to agree with his statement.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        "accusing a democratically elected politician of being 'the death of democracy'."

        Many dictators and authoritarian leaders have been democratically elected - just, once they obtained power, never released it - some even went far enough to change the rules "democratically" to make it look "legal".

        There's no mechanism in any real democracy to prevent this but electors capability of spotting and avoiding them - but sometimes they fail and create the perfect storm. It's like a self-destruct mechanism built in.

        Would Trump go that far? I hope he won't - but I also believe he's more a puppet moved by his entourage than a real leader - so he can be replaced in the future.

        It is also true Trump is the end result of issues in the American society which were not addressed in time just like it happened in similar situations, and some time people chose what looked the simplest and quickest solution, just to to find later it was the ugliest and most dangerous one.

        1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: "accusing a democratically elected politician of being 'the death of democracy'."

          "There's no mechanism in any real democracy to prevent this"

          Actually, the American constitution is pretty resistant to change. That's repeatedly hindered progress in the past. But it will stop Trump doing a Mugabe. (It's a bit like the "upside" of First Past The Post is the UK only gets one UKIP MP.)

          Icon: a cloud with a silver lining.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: "accusing a democratically elected politician of being 'the death of democracy'."

            No it won't. All an autocrat has to do is IGNORE it, since in the end laws are just ink on a page. If they throw out the Constitution, start fresh, AND have the force to back it up, there's no stopping them. That's what happens in a hostile takeover.

            1. Tomato42 Silver badge

              Re: "accusing a democratically elected politician of being 'the death of democracy'."

              @Charles 9: exactly, or even simpler, paralyse the constitutional court (or put your lackeys in it) and everything the Great Leader does is suddenly either unknown to be unconstitutional or becomes constitutional by the fact that it was performed by the Great Leader

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: "accusing a democratically elected politician of being 'the death of democracy'."

                "paralyse the constitutional court (or put your lackeys in it)"

                A good safeguard is to have your head of state appoint the court who can then keep the head of government in check. The US's problem is that they vest the same roles in one person.

                1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                  Re: "accusing a democratically elected politician of being 'the death of democracy'."

                  No, the safeguard in the US is that the head of state nominates the judiciary BUT the legislature (specifically the Senate) must CONFIRM the nomination.

                  But, just like your scenario, there's one inescapable flaw: what if both entities involved are in cahoots?

    2. PNGuinn
      Childcatcher

      Re: Fascism is on the rise...

      "Of course the Stasi need to invade your privacy for the benefit of the state.

      Thats what Totalitarian regimes do."

      In other news ... Here in Blighty some "security" dweeb has been blathering on about the increased dangers of a terrorist attack.

      Why was my first reaction "Security theatre again ... I wonder which of my few remaining freedoms does Teresa Mayhem want to steal now?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sigh. This is what happens when Europes socialism is turning into national socialism. And once that transformation is complete, we all know the rest of the story. This time however, I doubt that the US will come to the rescue. =(

    Socialism, the most destructive weapon ever invented.

    1. edge_e
      Boffin

      Getting bored of pointing this out

      One's views on socialism/capitalism have no bearing one's views on totalitarianism/libertarianism.

      https://www.politicalcompass.org/

      1. John Sager

        Re: Getting bored of pointing this out

        So why do we see so much 'the State must' talk from the Left? 'Minimise the State' seems to be perceived as more of a Right position.

        1. hplasm Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: Getting bored of pointing this out

          " 'Minimise the State' seems to be perceived as more of a Right position"

          As in- "THIS IS OURS NOW- KEEP OUT."

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Getting bored of pointing this out

          Yank conservative pre-election: Less state!

          Yank conservative post-elected: More state!

      2. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge

        Re: https://www.politicalcompass.org/

        Thanks for that, my 'dot' is almost overlapping Ghandis'. Considering some of the other people on that chart I'm gonna be happy about that :)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: https://www.politicalcompass.org/

          Argh, went to the print certificate link, I've landed slap-bang in the middle of a Nicola Sturgeon-Jeremy Corbyn-Bernie Sanders ménage...

          An unjust punishment for trying to game the results, methinks..

    2. fruitoftheloon
      FAIL

      @AC

      Dear AC,

      'stupidity/ignorance/name-calling [delete as inappropriate], the most destructive weapon ever invented'

      FTFY

      Jay

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Christoph Silver badge
    FAIL

    Single point of failure

    It's quite safe - the master key is securely held and is too long to break.

    Oh dear we made one teeny tiny slip up and the master key got out.

    Oops - every single message by everyone can now be trivially read.

    1. DropBear Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Single point of failure

      It's all right. They'll be asking for a two-key version...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is normal for the French. Way back in time it was impossible to get a French version of a browser with any sort of encryption above the minimum and this state lasted for a long while.

    Now we are seeing the same thing with them trying to get their hands on everything again.

    1. Salamamba

      If I remember correctly, it was also illegal to encrypt emails.

  9. Oengus Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Requirement

    It seems that it is a universal requirement for anyone in charge of the security agencies to have the temperament of a spoiled six year old prat.

    They won't accept that they can't have their way. They keep pushing the same agenda regardless of how many times they are told it isn't possible. They think that if they keep nagging we will eventually give in to their demands.

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Requirement

      It's the universal nature of having any power to not conceive of any limitations on it except by others with _more_ power. "Principles" and "fluffy ideals" is not on that list.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Requirement

      If you think it's possible to build a back-doored but secure system then why not demonstrate it with a put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is test.

      Build it. Use it to secure all your personal details, passwords, banking access, everything at an online location which you publish. If it remains secure for a couple of years we might begin to believe you. And the best of luck, sucker.

    3. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: Requirement

      For me the question isn't whether a back doored encryption approach wouldn't prevent some crime, even some serious crime. Of course it will. There is a large overlap between the Venn diagram of idiots and criminals, so it is obvious that some idiot criminal is going to use the back doored crypto and be caught with much fanfare. The question is what do we have to trade off to get that? One is the risk of some rogue group getting their hands on such a key. The other is for misbehaviour of its trusted custodians.

      Anyone who has studied history will immediately recognise the difficulty of considering that to be "a good trade-off". Heck, we have detailed information now in the public domain about top secret intelligence operations, compromised hardware/software/algorithms because they couldn't stop one of their own from "stealing it". Colour me unconvinced on this...

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I believe the patent office have a requirement that patent submissions for perpetual motion machines must be accompanied by a working example Perhaps they should add the same requirement for secure encryption systems accessible to the authorities.

  11. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    The test of truth is an experiment

    For the next election cycle let's have all politicians do their online banking protected by ROT13.

    1. alexdonald

      Re: The test of truth is an experiment

      Aye, but let's make it doubly secure; and run it through twice...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Forgive my ignorace, but...

    Okay, lets say this kind of thing comes into law, and the governments of europe / uk / us says, 'Hey Goober : don't use encryption that we cant crack anymore'. I, for the sake of argument say 'nuts to that' and download some decent encryption technology anyway. How are they going to stop me, if I'm determined enough? Short of the complete police state......Ah.....

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Forgive my ignorace, but...

      In extremis they can make it an offence to use or even develop encryption (Germany has laws in place which make the legal development of forensic software more or less impossible). Individuals might be prepared to live with paying the fine / short custodial sentence, but service providers would generally rollover. Then we get into the tricky area of people using service providers with other jurisdictions and the game of whack-a-mole.

      Meanwhile the criminals who this kind of nonsense is supposed to target are already breaking the law and the governments own systems would most likely become more vulnerable, due to the principle of the weakest link being any consumer device (think mobile phone) that is brought in. The German parliament's computer systems have already been breached at least once by Russian hackers. But if you thought that would make them favour stronger encryption then you'd be mistaken. The debate, with a nod to Blackadder, simply gets recast as one of "good" versus "bad" hackers and the need to give "our guys" the best tools. And the crooks and the terrorists will continue to use the best tools available…

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Forgive my ignorace, but...

        German government really doesn't have much luck when it comes to encryption does it ?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Forgive my ignorace, but...

      They don't need a police state for that.

      If you use encryption without a backdoor then you will be arrested and if you don't stop using it then you will spend some time at her majesties pleasure.

      This leads to another question, how are they going to enforce it?

      Sure you can force Microsoft/Google/Apple etc... to install a back door but how do you stop me encrypting my own files and emailing them?

  13. wolfetone Silver badge
    Holmes

    If encryption enables terrorism...

    ...why aren't countries banning the use of physical currency?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. M7S

      Re: If encryption enables terrorism...

      India ran a partial test on this quite recently

  14. Duncan Macdonald Silver badge

    openpgp

    There is already strong encryption available - OpenPGP - that is open source so any attempt to insert a backdoor would be easily detected. Anyone that needs strong encryption to evade law enforcement can already obtain it and all the wishfull thinking of the worlds politicians cannot stop it.

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: openpgp

      I can't imagine what the down-voter is disagreeing with here, it's not like you were even voicing an opinion - just 'flat fact'.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: openpgp

        "it's not like you were even voicing an opinion - just 'flat fact'."

        If someone's opinion is contradicted by flat facts then they'll vote down a statement of the facts.

      2. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

        Re: just 'flat fact'

        One can only assume they have 'alternative facts'.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: openpgp

        Clearly we live in an enlightened age where clear and correct facts should be down voted in case they are fake news. This is what fake news is for, fill the world with bullshit and the truth gets lost.

      4. Someone Else Silver badge
        Big Brother

        @ Sir Runcible Spoon -- Re: openpgp

        I can't imagine what the down-voter is disagreeing with here, it's not like you were even voicing an opinion - just 'flat fact'.

        Ahhh, but my dear Sir Spork...this is the Brave New World of Alternative Facts....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: openpgp

      and all the wishfull thinking of the worlds politicians cannot stop it.

      But they can make it illegal. That won't stop real criminals, but it would give politicians and the local Stasi the power to snoop on everybody else, which is presumably what this is about. And having made it illegal, ISPs would be under an obligation to identify people using illegal encryption (including VPNs and software that isn't "backdoor compliant"), and the guilty would be subject to RIPA style compulsion to turn over the unencrypted content, and be prosecuted and fined for use of this terrorist technology. In response to business pressure, business VPNs would have a cop out, but the masses would be expected to just hand over their privacy, all in the name of "defending our freedom".

      If you take two steps back, it seems as though this panicked need for universal surveillance has little or nothing to do with left or right, with the trivial volumes of terrorism, or the moral panic of child abuse, but is simply part of a concerted effort by the Establishment to try and regain control of the population.

      1. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: openpgp

        "But they can make it illegal." --- Ledswinger

        Not really, they can't. It's pretty trivial to embed a message of a few kB into a picture of a few MB. It's even easier to prearrange code words in idiot code and send messages with innocuous looking public posts.

        To prevent people communicating steganographically, you pretty much need to prevent people communicating at all. It's time for the authorities to dispense with the pre-crime fantasy that you'd be able to stop all manner of atrocities if only you had total knowledge of your citizens.

        We keep hearing the "if it saves one life ..." mantra. This should be slapped down immediately; it is no more practical to spy on everyone to reduce a few terrorist deaths than it is to enforce a national 20mph speed limit to reduce the vastly greater number of road deaths.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: openpgp

          "Not really, they can't. It's pretty trivial to embed a message of a few kB into a picture of a few MB. It's even easier to prearrange code words in idiot code and send messages with innocuous looking public posts."

          Counters: Mangle all pictures uploaded to fora, and all nonsense messages flagged. Plus idiot code needs to be shared in order to be effective, creating a First Contract issue where moles can intervene.

          "To prevent people communicating steganographically, you pretty much need to prevent people communicating at all."

          Or simply make it a Panopticon situation where you can be nailed after later review. The technology's practically there even for face-to-face conversations using noise cancellation and high-res cameras.

          "We keep hearing the "if it saves one life ..." mantra. This should be slapped down immediately; it is no more practical to spy on everyone to reduce a few terrorist deaths than it is to enforce a national 20mph speed limit to reduce the vastly greater number of road deaths."

          I disagree. I think it IS possible, feasible, and just waiting for the wrong government to actually force it on people. And if people protest, burn or nuke 'em. There's too many people anyway.

        2. Tomato42 Silver badge
          Meh

          Re: openpgp

          "if it saves one life ..."

          oh, so they will finally do something about the drunk driving that kills over 50 people a day, every day, across the EU?

    3. Adam 1 Silver badge

      Re: openpgp

      Firstly, not the down voter. I agree with the general gist of what you are saying. My only disagreement would be about the easiness of detection. Remember that a lot of things need to hold true for encryption to be secure. A few years back, Debian's RNG was accidentally screwed up by removing some code that looked buggy but was necessary for seed initialisation. That fundamentally compromised all encryption operations for a 2 year period.

      See https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2008/05/random_number_b.html

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Crypto Wars Part II - The Empires Strike Back

    Related:

    Crypto Wars Part II - The Empires Strike Back

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxUkVJkwC0A

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Please raise your left hand

    all those who have read the letter in question, which I remind you comes from two national ministries and is addressed to the EC.

    Most of it is concerned with building a virtual wall around Europe, seemingly blind to the fact that our violent activism is overwhelmingly if not entirely home-grown (not to mention inflating the actual scale of the problem, but that's another matter).

    However, when it comes to backdoors, there is no such mention. The actual passage reads thusly:

    « La lutte contre le terrorisme requiert de donner les moyens juridiques aux autorités européennes afin de tenir compte de la généralisation du chiffrement des communications par voie électronique lors d'enquêtes judiciaires et administratives. La Commission européenne doit veiller à ce que des travaux techniques et juridiques soient menés dès maintenant pour étudier la possibilité de définir de nouvelles obligations à la charge des prestataires de services de communications par voie électronique tout en garantissant la fiabilité de systèmes hautement sécurisés, et de proposer sur cette base une initiative législative en octobre 2017. » Emphasis in the original.

    Of course, it is written in ambiguous political speak, but it says nothing in there about encryption backdoors (it actually says that the "reliability of highly secure systems" should be respected), and if backdoors was what they had in mind, the prospective proposal wouldn't be addressed to communication providers, but to encryption providers. An hypothesis of mine is that they want to tap into our comms while at rest at the service provider's facilities, as opposed to in transit. Which is of course fine, since we're moving fast towards end-to-end encryption anyway. :-)

    I cannot see what the EC spokesman (not an actual official?) said in response to this since the referenced Politico article has no content for me (paywall?). Please raise your right hand those who have read that.

    The most worrying passage is actually this:

    « Pour compléter ce dispositif, la révision do Code Frontière Schengen permettra de procéder à des contrôles systématiques aux frontières extérieures pour les ressortissants européens et étrangers. » Again, emphasis in the original.

    The French politicians for some unknown reason have always been extremely reticent to move their police away from their borders and in France systematic controls have been occurring ever since Schengen was put in place, always with one excuse or another.

    This is paradoxic, given that industry and education in France are amongst the most outward-looking in the whole EU (I don't know how many are aware here, for example, that every French engineering student is expected to study at least one year abroad, preferably in English, which they are required to master as part of their studies. At least the engineering school that I am familiar with is effectively bilingual and close to 50% of their students are non-French).

    My impression is that this is one of those moves aimed at testing public opinion before making any actual decisions.

    In any event, the good news is that they say they intend to propose legislation in October 2017. There are a number of different ways to create laws in Europe, but thankfully, the process is highly participative, much more so than at the national level. Anybody can comment and have their comments taken into consideration, and the EC tend to identify and consult with actual experts in the matters their legislate about (e.g., Dr Maximilian Schrems has been seen a few times in Brussels, along with US academics and representatives of the Electronic Frontier Foundation during the debates leading up to the new data exchange agreement).

    The not so good news: while the European Commission (civil service, technocrats) tend to be mostly sane, the Parliament (career politicians, outcasts from their respective national parties, hangers-on, ...) usually get their way in the end when it comes to "visible" matters, with the excuse that they "represent" us (no they don't, I'm saying this on the basis of personal knowledge).

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: Please raise your left hand

      « Pour compléter ce dispositif, la révision do Code Frontière Schengen permettra de procéder à des contrôles systématiques aux frontières extérieures pour les ressortissants européens et étrangers. » Again, emphasis in the original.

      The French politicians for some unknown reason have always been extremely reticent to move their police away from their borders and in France systematic controls have been occurring ever since Schengen was put in place, always with one excuse or another.

      In the original text, doesn't "frontières extérieures" mean the external borders of the EU, not those of France? I would read that as saying that the revision to Schengen allows more extensive controls around "Fortress Europe", not as a desire to increase controls at French borders with the EU. In any case France reintroduced internal border controls with the state of emergency declared after the Charlie Hebdo and Nice attacks.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Please raise your left hand

        In the original text, doesn't "frontières extérieures" mean the external borders of the EU, not those of France?

        Yes it does, but: a) border controls already are or can be systematic at Schengen's external borders, and b) you do not need to review the "Schengen Border Code" (whatever that is) in order to do controls at a non-Schengen border.

        As I said, it is written in political language. It is a bit like when they say "no more taxes".

        > In any case France reintroduced internal border controls with the state of emergency declared after the Charlie Hebdo and Nice attacks.

        No. That was just their latest excuse at the time. "Non-systematic" but suspiciously regular controls have always taken place since day 1 of the Schengen agreement. At first they did not even bother to remove the border posts (the one between France and Spain was eventually rebranded a "logistical" facility) until after heavy fines from the EC, about fifteen years ago. At the Italian crossing, they just hang around both entrances of the Mont Blanc tunnel and at the San Bernardino pass. They barricaded the A6 into Germany a couple years back, and so on.

        They just moved the PAF (Police aux frontières) guys away from the border itself and to the nearest motorway toll station. Try driving past one of those in a car with an "exotic" Schengen licence plate.

        1. agatum

          Re: Please raise your left hand

          As I said, it is written in political language. It is a bit like when they [politicians] say "no more taxes".

          So like what, "bullshit bullshit bullshit sun is hot bullshit bullshit bullshit"?

          Maker I hate that lot.

  17. Mephistro Silver badge
    Flame

    Any politician that proposes shit like this...

    ... should have a legal obligation to provide the exact method to accomplish the feat while guaranteeing the bad guys -and that's a very ample category that includes many 'democratic' government officials- can't gain access to the keys or use mathematical methods to decrypt citizens' comms.

    Those not able -that is, everyone of them- should be put into a barrel and thrown into some big waterfall. Oh, and the barrel should be filled up to the brim with cacti.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Any politician that proposes shit like this...

      "Those not able -that is, everyone of them- should be put into a barrel and thrown into some big waterfall. Oh, and the barrel should be filled up to the brim with cacti."

      And if they're masochists?

  18. codejunky Silver badge

    Ha

    "There may be British readers who are feeling rather smug about this latest European proposal, and think that Brexit UK will be immune from such silliness. Not so – Blighty already has legislation that paves the way for mandatory backdoored encryption, it just hasn't worked out how to force the issue yet."

    Actually I think there will be British readers who are pretty smug that the shining beacon of utopia has blown another bulb. And probably a few british readers scratching another reason to stay in the place of enlightened transcendence off their argument list with the same pen they scratched off the word 'eurosceptic' when the Euro failed.

    Of course we could all be happier if the various governments would stop intruding into our lives.

    1. Roj Blake Silver badge

      Re: Ha

      Except that the ECHR (which Mrs May will remove us from shortly after Brexit) will declare such blatant backdoorery illegal.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Ha

      You may not have noticed but there's also some pretty draconian stuff already in place here whilst this stuff is only at a proposal stage. The ECJ would almost certainly have something to say about the proposal if it got into law. Sadly it's not going to get much of a chance to do much about our situation: even if we do get a ruling before Brexit it will very quickly cease to apply. The ECHR might do something useful as I'm not certain May can wriggle out of that. Actually GDPR is likely to shoot this down as it would effectively make compliance impossible.

      I don't see on what basis you dragged the Euro into this as the UK isn't in it and was never likely to have been and is quite irrelevant to encryption and/or back doors.

      1. codejunky Silver badge

        Re: Ha

        @ Doctor Syntax

        "You may not have noticed but there's also some pretty draconian stuff already in place here whilst this stuff is only at a proposal stage"

        Well the Germans were working with the NSA until they spied on Merkels phone. And now they are proposing doing similar stuff. Also I didnt drag the Euro into this I dragged eurosceptic into this as my comment clearly points out this is yet another argument for the utopia delusion of the EU to be scratched off in the face of truth. And that is very relevant.

  19. Scroticus Canis
    Big Brother

    "...law enforcement agencies or other competent authorities..." - LMFAO

    "Encryption technology should not prevent law enforcement agencies or other competent authorities from intervening in the lawful exercise of their functions,"

    First find ANY competent government authority.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: "...law enforcement agencies or other competent authorities..." - LMFAO

      In this context anything from your local dog-catcher and upwards would be regarded as a competent authority.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So the U.S. doesn't have a monopoly on "crazy."

    So much for my retirement plans...

  21. Eclectic Man

    Some things can be done

    It s possible to have a form of key escrow which allows for message recovery without key recovery, BUT it is convoluted and expensive.(*)

    I have two rather fundamental issues with the idea of deliberate backdoors in the algorithms (in addition to the ones listed by the august and intelligent readers of El Reg., of course):

    1 I do not trust every member of the government apparatus not to use my backdoored credentials to impersonate me.

    2 I do not trust all future politicians not to sign search warrants for the escrow agencies (something not considered the first time around by the civil servants in the late '80s / early /90s)

    (* My paper on this languishes as yet unpublished, but hey ho, maybe it is time to dust it off.)

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: Some things can be done

      This really nails one aspect on the head - I don't trust those in power (politicians or civil servants) to either by honourable in their use of such vast powers, nor do I trust them to be competent not to leak the lot on some train, etc, or through bribery or corruption.

      And that is before we get in to the practical business of how you make such a system that is technically workable and resistant to criminals (private or state-sponsored) who we have seen to have already broken in and looted massive gov data sets that ought to have been secure.

  22. Morrie Wyatt
    Black Helicopters

    Hah!

    And all this from the self-same countries that screamed blue murder over data sovereignty and "Safe harbor" because their citizens privacy might be impacted.

    Now we know why. This way they might be able to keep all the data where their backdoored encryption keys can be used to get at it.

    What? Me cynical?

  23. Lennart Sorensen

    Strong encryption already exists. So no matter what new encryption you invent with a backdoor (ignoring for the moment that you can't do that while also making it secure enough to be worth using), there is nothing stopping the criminals from just continuing to use the strong encryption, leaving the new backdoored garbage for the rest of us. So no help for law enforcement, just harm for everyone else.

  24. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

    Exactly how many acts of terror have not been prevented due to encryption that could have, had such a backdoor been available?

  25. Franco Silver badge

    Do the fucktards who come up with this nonsense honestly think that people believe it is purely for anti-terror purposes?

    Lets go back 80 years or so. Encryption wasn't an option for data transmission then, so instead the data itself was encrypted. Terrorist sends message encrypted via one time pad over an unencrypted channel and there is precisely heehaw that a backdoor can do about it.

    Of course, if we have nothing to hide we have nothing to fear though.....

  26. Herby Silver badge
    Joke

    Godwins law, revised (as it relates to part of this discussion)

    s/Hitler/Trump/g

    Seems proper given the current political climate.

    I await thumbs up. :-)

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Godwins law, revised (as it relates to part of this discussion)

      But look on the bright side - the last time the Hun tried to do mandatory encryption we got computers as a spin-off

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So Much for EU Data Privacy

    It seems that much of the objection to EU-US data exchange is predicated on the NSA being able to grab the data of EU citizens without their knowledge. Many of us knew all along that this was a specious claim because the intelligence agencies of most EU countries do as much (if not more) than the NSA -- and now it is clear to all exactly what they are doing.

    I wonder how this push by the French and German authorities will affect some of the basis for court cases objecting to things like Privacy Shield or other efforts to promote privacy in the EU.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "There's no mechanism in any real democracy to prevent this"

    The reason and the means:

    "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,"

    "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

    1. LDS Silver badge

      'the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed'

      It worked in the XVIII century when the government didn't have tanks and bombers, and soldiers had mostly the same weapons, and artillery was slow to be deployed.

      Today, it's utterly useless. Today or you have enough of the Armed Forces on your side, or you can't really have any hope to change the government with a bunch of people armed with guns. Actually, a pacific revolution could achieve much more.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: 'the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed'

        "It worked in the XVIII century when the government didn't have tanks and bombers, and soldiers had mostly the same weapons, and artillery was slow to be deployed."

        I assume the US gun lobby would be quite happy to be able to restore that balance.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: 'the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed'

        It says "arms" not guns, and nothing about conventional weapons.

        You can prize my H-bomb from my glowing dead fingers

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: 'the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed'

          But who else but a state has the resources to make a working and relatively safe H-bomb?

  29. James Ashton
    Big Brother

    Make the Government Use It

    Ask the government to encrypt government documents using only the same cryptography that has been used to backdoor everyone else's documents. Ask them why they're not comfortable publishing encrypted versions of, say, the minutes of recent cabinet meetings.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cost, Policing Effectiveness, End Goal, and the Social Contract of a Country

    I think it's interesting to look at the reasons why politicians make such statements of need.

    Policitian's Job

    Most of us get to elect our politicians, some of us pay some tax, and then we hold them to account for their response to occasions when bad shit happens. Look at Spain - they turfed out the ruling party at the general election soon after the Madrid train bombings.

    Understandably then politicians are keen (well, they should be keen) to do a half-decent job of preventative policing. Using only restorative policing is unlikely to result in plaudits after a bad incident; the incident has already happened.

    Cost, Morals and Feasibility of Surveillance

    But preventative policing costs money, and is much more elusive than restorative policing. For the Police to be able to guarantee preventing someone doing something nasty they basically have to follow them all the time, with the aim of intervening as soon as their intentions become clear. And the only way for the police to guarantee on their own that no-one will be able to launch an attack is for them to follow everybody, all the time.

    However, as well as being pretty morally bad, it's not affordable to do that for everyone all the time. East Germany tried to do this, they used some pretty nasty methods to force wives to spy on husbands, etc, with a great saving to state expenditure (even communist governments had to pay their own spies).

    Laws, Borders between Policing Zones

    The right laws can help. It's useful to be able to pin a charge on someone that'll send them to jail before they let off their big bomb, shoot up a cinema, whatever. If there's laws that make it an offense to prepare an attack, then there's a route open for policing intervention well in advance of the actual attack. There's no need to take it down to the wire before intervening. If they're in jail having been convicted of such an offense, they then cannot carry out their plan.

    In the USA they're in very poor shape in this regard; more or less anyone can legally possess a severely dangerous weapon, and they've not broken any law right up until they pull the trigger whilst aiming it at someone, by which time it's too late. Gun control is pretty lax in a lot of Europe, so similar problems there. Gun control in Britain is pretty tight, so anyone found in possession of a weapon most likely has broken some law or other, so they can be charged, tried and jailed if convicted, all before they've pulled that trigger. Same for knives, diesel / fertiliser, pamplets of a certain sort, etc.

    Being an island helps too; there's less opportunity for a miscreant to exploit slack policing in one country to launch an attack in another. If one has open borders but variations in policing standard / laws / etc, such as is the situation in Europe, then it's easier for a miscreant to succeed.

    Closing the borders afterwards just makes them look daft. In fact, despite borders clanging shut all across Europe on occasion in recent years, I've not heard of any discussion within Europe about modifying Schengen to make dealing with such events better thought out.

    Any Beneficial Effect from what Germany and France are Calling For?

    So one is not going to go down the route of the Stasi / East Germany because it's too expensive or abhorrent. Nor is Europe intending to achieve full political / law / policing union across Europe. Of course, one of Europe's big problems is that it's a terrible splitting of sovereignty. Police forces, which are still the responsibility of each sovereign nation, have no idea who is in their country because there's no borders between them. And if you're not looking for nasty people at one's borders, your only option then is to look for nasty people within, which is always going to be more intrusively Stasi-esque.

    How then does the law enforcement types get tip-offs?

    Germany and France seem to be trying to do it the lazy way, thinking that it will be possible to solve the problem simply by snooping on everyone's email / facebook / whatever.

    Snooping no doubt produces a lot of data. Turning that into accurate and useful information cannot simple, even if one somehow has the magic keys that unlocks everything. Used on its own as a tool for making decisions about people must inevitably be a blunt and inaccurate instrument.

    Even if they did achieve that data-haul nirvanah that they're calling for, it would be short-lived as a means of finding out if bad things are about to happen. The canny sort of nasty guys would just stop using electronic communication altogether (as has happened before; the Taliban got wise to how dangerous a mobile could be). Meanwhile the nasty guys would still be grooming impressionable and vulnerable people, they'd stilll be improvising explosive devices, acquiring guns, buying machetes, hijacking lorries, spreading a lot of hate talk, and they'd be using the postal service instead (that's even less surveyable than electronic comms).

    I reckon comms surveillance does serve a role - you have to do it because if you don't then comms will (and has been) be used by nasty guys, and it is useful to them. There's no need to make it too easy.

    Policing With the Consent of the People

    The most effective measures to prevent problems includes a strong and willing relationship between law enforcement and the communities they're there for. People need to feel that if their son or someone they know is going off the rails that getting in touch with the local cops will ultimately be a good thing. They need to know that dibbing in a trouble maker no matter who they are will be a good thing for them an their kin. Good relationships with people yields tremendous results - they'll be keen to make the police aware of problems that are developing.

    Best bit - is basically free.

    Bad relationships with people cannot be compensated for by technology of any sort, no matter how much of it one has.

    Certainly this is one of the lesser mentioned successful aspects of policing in the UK in recent times (people focus a lot on GCHQ and the like), and is a welcome even if it is not yet a universal change from how it used to be in the bad old days. It takes proactive and continual work by police - you know, speaking to people on occassions other than when they're arresting someone, making a point of calling in on local bigwigs for a cup of tea and a chat, etc.

    That, backed up only when necessary by strong surveillance and strong application of the law, works. Surveillance on its own does not, because you can never afford to have enough of it to guarantee that the end goal of law-and-order (namely, settled and contented order in a country) is achieved, and it cannot be acted on in isolation without tremendous cock-ups that impact perfectly innocent people bringing the whole thing into disrepute. Altogether now, "Brasil, meu Brasil Brasileiro / Meu mulato inzoneiro / Vou cantar-te nos meus versos"

    It's the aspect of policing that had so catastrophically failed in Brussels, Paris, and seemingly large parts of the USA, etc. There should be no such thing as a police no-go zone; it's a curious kind of racism to refuse to police an area. No-go zones mean that the police have been doing it wrong.

    So I'm unimpressed by Germany and France's proposal. I'd be more impressed if they (particularly France and Belgium) were talking about doing something about getting policing back to normal in the communities that have been neglected for far too long allowing the nastier types to find a safe haven.

  31. Someone Else Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Well, there you go again....

    Once again, as is depressingly predictable nowadays, we find yet another example of your bog-standard bureaucrat being dumb as a sack of hair, and pleased as punch about demonstrating that fact in front of people.

  32. harmjschoonhoven
    Black Helicopters

    Re: be bribed or coerced into handing over the keys

    If I am well informed, was the list of people to be arrested (prepared in advance for eventualities as in any NATO country) required for the success of the coup d'etat by the Greek military junta in april 1967 printed by a computer operator stimulated by putting a gun to his head.

  33. Baldy50

    1984

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/08/24/french_german_ministers_call_for_new_encryption_backdoor_law/

  34. naive

    Say hi to state supported monopolies

    The outcome of this is already known. The only way authorities can have transparent citizens if they all use a limited set of tools like windows, Android and Chrome. With a limited amount of technology suppliers covering around 98% of the people, introducing backdoors offering full access will be easy.

    So for years to come, the flock will be herded to a handful of "mainstream" solutions. The smart ones go the extra mile, and try to use open source solutions, hoping the encryption solution is not maintained by someone working for one of the three letter agencies.

  35. lukewarmdog
    Joke

    bear arms

    My bear arms will beat your puny human arms in any hand to hand combat situation.

  36. Apptifred

    "As has been pointed out many times, it isn't mathematically or technologically possible to build a backdoor into encryption that is completely exclusive to a select set of people, and can't be found and exploited by others."

    As a politician, you can wish for a lot of things, but if it is mathematically impossible, it is. You cannot put legal requirements on using time traveling to prevent crimes either. Sci-Fi is Sci-Fi. Math is math.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Wanna bet? Nothing's impossible in the mind of a politician except being able to speak against him or her.

  37. MrTuK
    Big Brother

    You always know when a politician is telling you a lie, his/her lips move !

    It is that simple folks !

    Just get a politician to make 1+1=3, they will find a way !

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Gestalts. Greater than the sums of their parts.

  38. knudmand

    Why do governments think they can control software?

    Encryption is Software, which is written text. Neither Hitler nor Soviet Union could stop the printed word. Why does US and European governments think anybody cares what words or software they like or allow?

    There will always be a Russian, Bulgarian or other programming implementing state of the art encryption.

    Will they also bann mathematics research, or sensor certain papers or professors?

    How naive!

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NSA just had their big time hack the planet tools stolen by hackers, and there are now computer worms wandering the world wide internet looking for evil to do.

    And this lesson is apparently lost on people who now demand back doors into everything.

    I correct myself. This lesson is not lost. It is ignored. As in they have an ulterior motive. As in "False Flag Operation". Any excuse to push back doors is a good one for them, even if it has nothing to do with the event.

    The way to beat terrorists is to not let them in.

    Not open the doors wide, invite a million a year, let them hack the planet from the other side of the world, and then openly tell them "there are now back doors everywhere. On your mark ! Get Set ! Start Hunting for them !"

    They're not stupid. They're just not interested in the saftey of the public, that's all. They're interested in their own power, nothing more.

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