Thursday, February 16, 2006

Brits Don't Like Encryption

British officials are concerned about encryption in Microsoft's forthcoming Windows Vista release, saying the technology could prevent law enforcement from reading suspects' computer files. They claim certain new features within Vista, while intended to do good, may actually set back terrorism investigations.

He suggested that the British government talk with Microsoft and computer vendors assure that there is some type of "backdoor key" in order to allow law enforcement access.

This is a particularly disturbing development since any type of deliberate backdoor (in addition to any and all unintended exploits) will make encryption all but meaningless.  Individuals that know there is a backdoor will find it – without even necessarily having evil intents.  It will be a puzzle that they want to solve and they will want credit for solving it.

If Microsoft does, indeed, built a backdoor mechanism for the encryption I predict that it will take less than six months before it is widely available on the internet.  The end result is that users will be less secure because they think their data is protected so they will be less attentive to how they handle it.  My hope is that Microsoft resists such calls for precisely this reason.

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