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Administration Working Group Shies Away From Proposing Encryption “Backdoors”

The Washington Post reports on the latest in the battle between technology companies and federal law enforcement over the inclusion of “backdoors” into encrypted communications.  

“An Obama administration working group has explored four possible approaches tech companies might use that would allow law enforcement to unlock encrypted communications — access that some tech firms say their systems are not set up to provide. The group concluded that the solutions were ‘technically feasible,’ but all had drawbacks as well… The approaches were analyzed as part of a months-long government discussion about how to deal with the growing use of encryption in which no one but the user can see the information… ‘Any proposed solution almost certainly would quickly become a focal point for attacks,’ said the unclassified memo, drafted this summer by officials from law enforcement, intelligence, diplomatic and economic agencies for eventual consideration by Cabinet members.”  

“The first potential solution called for providers to add a physical, encrypted port to their devices. Companies would maintain a separate set of keys to unlock devices, using that port only if law enforcement had physical access to a device and obtained a court order to compel the company’s assistance… The second approach would exploit companies’ automatic software updates. Under a court order, the company could insert spyware onto targeted customers’ phones or tablets — essentially hacking the device… A third idea described splitting up encryption keys, a possibility floated by National Security Agency director Michael S. Rogers earlier this year. That would require companies to create a way to unlock encrypted content, but divide the key into several pieces — to be combined only under court order… Under the final approach, which officials called a “forced backup,” companies under court order would be required to upload data stored on an encrypted device to an unencrypted location.”