NERD HARDER! FBI Director reiterates faith-based belief in working crypto that he can break

But do you have any doubt that the perpetrators would adapt easily?


Yeah, the question of how far to go in the pursuit of justice for some of the world’s most vulnerable people experiencing some of the most profound suffering is a perennial and thorny ethical question.

But as @NovaeDeArx points out, it’s mostly irrelevant in this case. You can create crypto protocols with backdoors, but you can’t force criminals to use them. Or you can (maaaaybe) figure out how to break strong crypto for everyone, but then secure transactions on the internet would be impossible and privacy on the internet would be even more of a joke – it would destroy the commercial viability of the internet.

Of course, slavery and child pornography predate the internet – even destroying the internet wouldn’t completely stop it. But maybe from your perspective it would be worth it just to reduce the scope of these heinous crimes by making them more difficult and costly? But other people will probably disagree with you on that cost/benefit analysis, and you’d have to convince a lot of people to buy in before you’d find the political will to destroy the internet.


Okay it is a very valid point that crypto makes it easier for evil people to cause great suffering, but what’s being discussed here is the fact that the fbi wants there to be no crypto that they can’t crack, which means no uncrackable crypto, which means no secure crypto. For anything. As has been mentioned above, criminals will (by and large) stop using crypto while the rest of us are left with vulnerable data. So it’s a valid point but not relevant, and I’m saying that with the utmost respect for anyone attempting to tackle human trafficking and child pornography.


Or any doubt that some perpetrators would find a way to exploit the deliberate vulnerabilities?


There are some security compromises where I think the potential dent in personal security is far smaller than the potential value to law enforcement.

For example, Apple could add an interface to the iPhone logic board to give access to the contents of the phone. This would require law enforcement to have physical possession of the phone, it would require destruction of the device to use (the connector could be only live after blowing some fusible links), and would require the assistance of Apple because each device would have a different embedded public key.

This would introduce no golden key or remote access problems.

Strength through purity; purity through faith.


Ask any lawyer what the “solution” to a data breach is, and they’ll tell you free credit monitoring.

This makes me think you don’t actually talk to many lawyers.


Or, alternately, since we already know of the existence of unescrowed crypto, they’ll just use that. You can “ban” it, but good crypto (and compression), once you strip headers and other supporting data, is effectively random-looking data. Are they going to ban random streams of data you can’t explain? I guess that means no one can use a computer without the possibility of being imprisoned then.


At the time, I thought that was a cautionary fairy-tale. Who knew?

And if we were to find an easy way to factor large numbers into primes, then this would make most of our cryptography vulnerable*. But there is absolutely no indication that that’ll happen, not to mention happening anytime soon.
So: no, it is not the same thing as being asked to trisect an arbitrary angle using only a compass and straightedge, but …

* This was the technical plot of the movie Sneakers.

1 Like

Even if there was a solution that worked on Planet America, what about Planet Earth?

There’s no way that I’d use a system where American agencies held the backdoor keys. I wouldn’t even have the feeble protection against domestic spying that Americans would have. I’d be lobbying my MP to forbid device makers from baking in USA-HOLE software to devices sold in Canada.

Next, police in every other country would be demanding the same access. (And how would that work?) That would include countries like Iran. I’ll see those child pornographers and human traffickers, and raise you political and human rights activists.


There you go worrying about those precious bodily fluids again.


I suspect destroying the Internet would also make it harder to track them down. Nowadays even one electronic bread-crumb can unravel a whole group. We didn’t have that advantage before.


That’s… clever! I’m stealing it! :grin:

1 Like

I’m pretty sure you could get there using JavaScript too.


Pearls of wisdom, indeed.

I’m reminded of lawyers who are famed creationists. They think that if they make a really compelling argument (on an emotional level), it somehow changes reality, that rhetorical techniques can eliminate facts.

That’s not what they’re asking for, though. They want strong, secure crypto - that they (and only they) can break into. It’s very much in the “draw me a five-sided triangle” territory.


The snarky responses are due to him asking for something impossible, and then doubling down and saying he doesn’t believe it’s impossible. The fact that some of the ramifications of that make you feel bad doesn’t affect whether it’s possible, no matter how strongly you feel about it, because whether or not it’s possible is a completely separate question from whether or not it’s desirable.

Personally, I think the FBI would be in no position to claim any moral high ground to demand this, even if it were possible, considering their constant track record of abusing every power they can to go after non-violent political dissidents, and I would say that they should stop doing that before they can even expect anyone to believe that’s not why they’re asking for this power, but it really doesn’t matter, because it’s impossible.


That’s a feature, not a bug.

“The laws of mathematics are very commendable…”