Advancements in encryption technology could be making us less safe, Attorney General William Barr said at the International Conference on Cybersecurity today. According to Barr, we are heading towards a place where encryption can keep users safe online, but will also harm us in the real-world.
“While we should not hesitate to deploy encryption to protect ourselves from cyber criminals, this should not be done in a way that eviscerates society’s ability to defend itself against these other types of criminals,” the head of the Department of Justice said, when speaking about other criminals such as kidnappers and burglars.
Advances in encryption have allowed the public to engage in secure communications, data storage, and online transactions. The AG, however, thinks there’s a dark side to the technology.
Barr maintains that companies should not use encryption at the expense of making us more vulnerable in the real world and that industry appears to be developing and employing decryption that can only be encrypted by the end-user or customer, which he says makes law enforcement practices tricky in the digital space.
“It allows criminals to operate with impunity, hiding their activity under an impenetrable cloak of secrecy,” Barr said. Encryption that is only accessible to the end-user can make digital evidence “warrant-proof,” Barr said.
Barr went on to say that for years law enforcement has been able to provide a certain level of privacy because they have been able to access the zone-of-privacy when public safety requires it.
“The cost of irresponsible encryption that blocks legitimate law enforcement access, is ultimately measured in a mounting number of victims. Men, women, and children who are the victims of crimes,” Barr said. “Crimes that could have been prevented if law enforcement had been given lawful access to encrypted evidence,” he added.
The attorney general also spoke about the U.S. Supreme Court’s obligation to make rulings that have to adapt to different advancements whether that be with the telephone, automobile, or thermo-imaging.