Current Events Bring Encryption and Privacy into Debate

encryption

By Tamanna Desai
Tech & Innovation Writer

Ever since the Paris Attacks, the world of technology and software companies are dealing with an exigent issue that is one of the many reasons why terrorist groups such as the Islamic State are rising to power. The Islamic State relies heavily on messaging applications such as WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter. It seems however, that Telegram messaging is the more preferred method of communicating. Telegram is an encrypted instant messaging application that has copious amounts of security measures in place to protect and ensure the privacy of its users. As a result of its heavy encryption, Telegram is facing incredible backlash from groups wanting to take down ISIS such as the hacker group called “Anonymous”.

Encryption is in place for many different purposes that ultimately have the same goal in mind; dispatch a message from one place to another without giving a third party the ability to view, store or use that information. For those of you who buy products and services online or pay your bills online, encryption is your best friend. According to teach-ict.com, when a message is sent on a secured server it is turned into a number key that is recognized and unscrambled by the receiving party.

Symbols such as the padlock and the “S” after HTTP, indicates that any message or activity sent is now secured and encrypted. Any reasonable human being can deduce that encryption is a positive conception. Many, however, argue just the opposite.

According to engadget.com, Blackberry has recently terminated its service in Pakistan due to the Pakistani government insisting for a backdoor into its encryption. Meaning, a secret exception that allows the Pakistani authority to monitor messages and actions preformed on the telecommunication company’s service. For a company like Blackberry, privacy is the foundation of its service and a “backdoor” into its security measures comes at the price of the company’s reputation and consumer trust. Although Blackberry is unsettled because of the termination of its services in Pakistan, the company felt no other option was available.

Apple CEO, Tim Cook is actively arguing against backdoors into encryption and willing to take similar steps similar to Blackberry. The prevailing technology services and application software companies are opposing the government and other individuals on the same issue. Some say that a “backdoor cannot be created just for the good guys” according to Forbes magazine. After access to encrypted messages and services is created, hackers, terrorists and other ill-intention individuals will figure out how to enter it or will find a way around it. Consequently, consumers will lose trust in the companies and the government will have to figure out another way to catch terrorists from communicating.

Yes, encryption helps us buy all of our holiday gifts and keeps our credit card information secure but is that more important than the fact that terrorists are communicating via Telegram and no one is able to view their messages and plots? As technology advances and debates develop whether or not backdoors into encryption become legal, communication via a network or service provider as we know it now, will change immensely.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, December 8th print edition.

Contact Tamanna at
tamanna.desai@student.shu.edu

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