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Encryption Communications Democrats Government Privacy Security United States Politics

Top Democratic Senator Will Seek Legislation To "Pierce" Through Encryption (dailydot.com) 556

Patrick O'Neill writes: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) will seek legislation requiring the ability to "pierce" through encryption to allow American law enforcement to read protected communications with a court order. She told the Senate Judiciary committee on Wednesday that she would seek a bill that would give police armed with a warrant based on probable cause the ability to read encrypted data. "I have concern about a PlayStation that my grandchildren might use," she said, "and a predator getting on the other end, and talking to them, and it's all encrypted. I think there really is reason to have the ability, with a court order, to be able to get into that."
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Top Democratic Senator Will Seek Legislation To "Pierce" Through Encryption

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  • zOMG (Score:5, Funny)

    by Progman3K ( 515744 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @02:44PM (#51090081)

    THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

  • Okay... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @02:45PM (#51090083) Journal

    Perhaps the good Senator should reflect upon what King Canute actually intended to say when he made his demonstration about his inability to stop the tide.

    Mathematical algorithms, like so many parts of our physical universe, don't give a flying fuck about Congress. It's like trying to pass legislation to make Pi equal to 3.

    • by l2718 ( 514756 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @02:51PM (#51090153)
      The Indiana Legistlature has already tried to legislate on mathematics [wikipedia.org].
    • >> algorithms, like so many parts of our physical universe, don't give a flying fuck

      As per Kerckhoff, the algorithms are already known. Politicians (most recently Clinton, Trump and now Feinstein) are either after our keys (e.g., key escrow) or trying to get us to always also use a known government key in our encryption.

      • Re:Okay... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Rob MacDonald ( 3394145 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @02:56PM (#51090231)
        Actually, no encrytion is perfect, it's mainly about making it take so long that it's not feasible to break. This ignores steath p2p networks and cpu sharing, as well as MASSIVE clusters and data centers dedicated to nothing but cracking the primes used. This, according to so very intelligent people, is how the NSA is getting through encryption, once you crack the prime, you are in. And sadly, a lot of applications use a cut and paste prime. All this nonsense about unbreakable encryption is a smoke screen to make you THINK they can't break it. The NSA sure as fuck can, and is, breaking encryption. None of this gets past the point that this twat wants the government to do her parenting for her. Worried about your kid talking to predators on their playstation? Set fucking parental controls on that shit like a normal human being. But it's not about the kids. It's never been about the kids. But it's doing a bang up job of pushing people to use encryption with a false sense of security, which is exactly what they want.
        • Re:Okay... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Bob the Super Hamste ( 1152367 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @03:46PM (#51090747) Homepage
          Well there are forms of encryption that cannot be broken in this universe, and others that are probable unbreakable in any universe for even messages shorter than this sentence so that is good enough for me. There is the venerable one time pad (OTP) [wikipedia.org] which can be shown to be unbreakable as at best all you could get were all possible messages of that length. The really neat thing about OTPs is that they are so simple you can teach them to a child and they can understand how they work and can do them with nothing more than paper and pencil. Also if one were to try and brute force keys on symmetric key encryption [wikipedia.org] you would run out of energy in the universe at around 270 bits using conventional computers, or 540 bits using quantum computers [wikipedia.org], that is assuming you have an ideal computer. Even then at 540 bits all you have done is cycled the counter and haven't done any useful decryption. Unfortunately asymmetric key encryption schemes based on prime factorization, elliptical curves, or discrete logarithms are broken using quantum computers [wikipedia.org] but are still pretty strong on conventional hardware. The good news is that there are some asymmetric key algorithms that appear to be unbreakable even on quantum computers [wikipedia.org].

          So to sum up I'm not really worried about things that will take longer than the heat death [wikipedia.org] of the universe, and if the US government has access to substantially more energy than is available in this universe then we have bigger problems. The first that comes to mind is waste heat even with an ideal computer.
    • They can just pass a law that says all computers are now quantum computers. Problem solved.

    • by Tailhook ( 98486 )

      Mathematical algorithms ... don't give a flying fuck about Congress.

      Do cryptographers give a flying fuck about prison sentences?

      • Re:Okay... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tsotha ( 720379 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @04:19PM (#51091031)
        Yeah, this is the problem. Lots of people are willing to beat their chests and say "fuck you" to the government now, but if, say, Congress passes a law making the use of unapproved encryption punishable by twenty years in the clink, 99.9% of these same people are going to knuckle under without a peep. We need to stop this kind of crap before it becomes law, and not depend on (other) people willing to take big risks.
    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      " It's like trying to pass legislation to make Pi equal to 3."

      Nothing wrong with that, it merely implies a requirement for non-Euclidean geometry.
  • by U2xhc2hkb3QgU3Vja3M ( 4212163 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @02:45PM (#51090093)

    A.K.A. "will somebody please add backdoors that will eventually get abused by the government and then used by thieves and hackers to do even worst shit."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      And how precisely will the US government force backdoors on open source or even private software? If I go out and make my own VPN software, then how will a mere law be able to "pierce" it?

    • You're assuming that the back door won't be broken open by thieves faster than government can abuse it.
  • by Bruce66423 ( 1678196 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @02:46PM (#51090095)
    Because it will rapidly become de rigeur for companies that are serious to use encryption that can't be broken on that basis. US companies can be part of that - or watch as their meal ticket evaporates...
  • All I have to say is (Score:5, Informative)

    by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @02:46PM (#51090099) Journal

    2345 A3DF 5782

  • Or you know... (Score:5, Informative)

    by i.r.id10t ( 595143 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @02:47PM (#51090111)

    "I have concern about a PlayStation that my grandchildren might use," she said, "and a predator getting on the other end, and talking to them, and it's all encrypted. I think there really is reason to have the ability, with a court order, to be able to get into that."

    You could be involved with your kids and *you* be in charge of who they are communicating with via your playstation

    • by Tokolosh ( 1256448 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @02:58PM (#51090251)

      We urgently need the technology to hear the voices in the senator's head.

    • by tiberus ( 258517 )

      Or for the times when you aren't there, it would be more reasonable for the parent/guardian, to be able to log the traffic.

      Pretty sure by the time the FBI becomes involved, it already too late from the parents POV...

    • lock her up (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      She OK with them talking to predators if it is not encrypted?!?

      child abuse!

      • She is the same senator that suggested that if we ban guns, the bad guys will put theirs down, because that is human nature.

        She is the same senator that said that High Power Rifles make it "Legal to hunt humans"

        But since she has a (D) after her name, she is better than any (R), (L) or (I) in the state of California (or so I am told)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      You could be involved with your kids and *you* be in charge of who they are communicating with via your playstation

      I don't have kids, but every interaction I've ever had with them has taught me that when you're not looking, they're doing everything they can to test their boundaries. Keeping watch over them 24/7 is not a realistic ask.

      Regardless, this is not a reason to weaken encryption. If watching what their kids do online is the only concern, a parental control mode that does logging should appease even the most capable of helicopter parents.

    • Re:Or you know... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @03:12PM (#51090385)

      "I have concern about a PlayStation that my grandchildren might use," she said, "and a predator getting on the other end, and talking to them, and it's all encrypted. I think there really is reason to have the ability, with a court order, to be able to get into that."

      You could be involved with your kids and *you* be in charge of who they are communicating with via your playstation

      Not only that, but kids have ALWAYS had clandestine communications. When Senator Feinstein was a teenager, I'd bet a lot money that she went for a walk alone with her friends sometimes. You go to the park, you walk in the woods or the meadow (in more rural areas), or whatever. Those communications may not have been formally "encrypted," but they were the private communications of the kids nonetheless. Back then, if you proposed having someone walk around with a microphone or tail your kid to monitor all communications, just in case something bad might happen -- well, people would think you were insane.

      And, you know what? Child abduction rates and violent crimes against kids were likely greater back then. At least for the past 40 years or so since child crime statistics have been accurately kept, the trend has basically been down, down, down. And the vast majority of such crimes are perpetrated by family members and close family friends, not random strangers -- met on the internet or elsewhere.

      Yes, it is true that your kids or grandkids may have greater contact with strangers through the internet and electronic communications than in previous generations. And that's why monitoring what they do IN PERSON is important. If they're in your house, watch what your grandkids are doing. Ask who they're talking to on the Playstation if it seems weird. Be involved.

      This nonsense about justifying encryption backdoors is coming from a combination of completely out-of-whack fears with little basis in reality. Child crime is down, but our fears of it are higher than ever (particularly when it comes to strangers, who are the least likely to harm your kids). Terrorist acts are few and far between (despite recent activity), yet we're more worried about them rather than actual dangers that are hundreds or even thousands of times more likely to kill us (driving, obesity and other "bad" health habits, etc.).

      People have always had fears driven by sensationalism -- see Renaissance paintings of Hellfire and read old-fashioned "fire and brimstone" sermons, for example. These modern fears are almost as loopy.

      • Re:Or you know... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by khasim ( 1285 ) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @03:22PM (#51090483)

        When Senator Feinstein was a teenager, I'd bet a lot money that she went for a walk alone with her friends sometimes. You go to the park, you walk in the woods or the meadow (in more rural areas), or whatever.

        Not any more. Now, the cops can be called if some IDIOT sees your kids playing by themselves. Now you drive your kids everywhere to meet other kids in controlled environments.

        And that is considered NORMAL BEHAVIOUR.

        See also Feinstein's defense of government spying on citizens. But her rage when one department spies on another department.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @02:48PM (#51090117)

    Some republicans are too, but I wonder if there is an area of life that politicians, especially Democrats - don't want to control?

    • by kqc7011 ( 525426 )
      Say's a lot that she is a "Top Democrat Senator".
    • All Democrats.
      All Republicans.

    • by Vermonter ( 2683811 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @03:02PM (#51090295)
      The thing with the Democrat party is that they feel they can solve (or at least greatly improve) all of our problems if they just pass enough legislation. This is about as stupid as a libertarian who says that getting rid of all regulation will solve all of our problems. The truth is the best solution is somewhere in the middle, but most people are too lazy to try to find it. And those that try are considered the enemy by the two parties because they are neither left enough nor right enough.
      • by HiThere ( 15173 )

        The truth is, indeed, somewhere in the middle, but it is my contention that any law that cannot be understood by an average high school senior should be declared invalid, AND that there should be an explicit finite limit on the number of laws. I'm thinking somewhere around 5,000. Something that people would have a reasonable hope of understanding.

        P.S.: "understood by an average high school senior" means that if you took 11 high school seniors, at least 7 of them would understand it the same way. Writing

  • by SirKron ( 112214 ) <brian.kronberg@3.14gmail.com minus pi> on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @02:48PM (#51090119)
    And then everyone will react by sending their encrypted (first level) traffic through a tunnel that performs a second encryption level in a country that laughs at their legal requests. She just doesn't get it. Encryption is here to stay for very good reasons law enforcement has to adapt.
  • I'm sure she means well (I mean, at least she's talking about needing a court-order, which is a Constitutionally compliant practice) . But yeah, pretty bad.

    Still nothing like a "series of tubes" though.

  • Nanny state alert! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darth Twon ( 2832799 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @02:48PM (#51090125)

    "I have concern about a PlayStation that my grandchildren might use," she said, "and a predator getting on the other end, and talking to them, and it's all encrypted. I think there really is reason to have the ability, with a court order, to be able to get into that."

    If you are so worried about a predator talking to your grandchildren through the Playstation network, why are they using it unsupervised?

    Take care of your own problems, don't make the government do it for you.

  • by charles05663 ( 675485 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @02:48PM (#51090127) Homepage
    She is all for spying...except if it is on her...
  • If you have access to the conversation on the children's side, you have ALREADY pierced encryption. The endpoints aren't hidden by encryption in most cases, that's a function of NAT/VPN/tor/etc

  • by ZorinLynx ( 31751 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @02:51PM (#51090159) Homepage

    The bad guys are just going to keep using existing software that doesn't have these backdoors (esp open source software that can be vetted). In other words, this legislation will accomplish absolutely nothing but making mainstream communication tools less secure.

    • by BoRegardless ( 721219 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @03:37PM (#51090661)

      Less secure means that security conscious users will try to circumvent the restrictions, too.

      I'll bet most parents don't know what their kids are sending and receiving right now in all our devices. Kids either get proper training early on from parents or not.

      Even if you "force" the bad guys to get new computing devices (LOL), the brainless legislator doesn't realize that there are images which look normal and are viewable by anyone to have embedded proprietary information that only the sender and recipient know of and whether secret messages exist or not. There is NO ENCRYPTION for viewing the image itself.

      Bad guys are always going to be able to create ways to pass secret messages.

  • So, i assume both sides would vote on the same. Does this also represent what the voters want? Or does this represent a narrow band of the ruling elite.

    • by waspleg ( 316038 )

      This represents military industrial complex uber alles with a thin veneer of 2 party psuedo democracy dolloped on a hardened turd of corporate oligarchy.

      See, they want to to keep spying on anything and everything, it's how they keep their power.

  • by portwojc ( 201398 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @02:51PM (#51090165) Homepage

    That's funny did Dianne Feinstein just imply that she can't trust her own children to raise their children properly?

  • by waspleg ( 316038 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @02:52PM (#51090175) Journal

    Dianne Goldman Berman Feinstein, born Dianne Emiel Goldman[1] (/ËfaÉnstaÉn/; born June 22, 1933), is the senior United States Senator from California. A member of the Democratic Party, she has served in the Senate since 1992.

    Served on the Senate since 1992.

    82 years old with no fucking clue what she's talking about.

    • She, like just about every Democrat politician (and most Republican ones too) wants to be high up in a totalitarian police state. No real mystery here.

      Don't get all caught up and just focus on her stupid statements. Focus on the real issue: A never ending struggle to screw you and me. And our kids. Forever and ever.

    • Says you (Score:5, Interesting)

      by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @03:23PM (#51090489)

      82 years old with no fucking clue what she's talking about.

      I don't buy the ignorance gag for a minute. Politicians can hear both sides of every argument, and generally do. They are all well educated, and have well educated staff around them all the time. When it's convenient for them to look dumb, they play their role and look dumb. And the asinine measure that people pushed back against becomes an incremental step toward their agenda, and in extreme cases Black Projects that the citizens don't know about for decades.

      For nearly half a century I have seen people believe the idiot gag and remain amazed at how far down the shitter we have gone in so little time. Meanwhile, a few people said what I just did.. and they have predicted correctly.

  • by Plazmid ( 1132467 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @02:53PM (#51090187)

    I have a concern about the IM apps my grandchildren might use and a predator getting in the middle and spoofing messages from their parents. A predator could pierce through encryption and send messages like "mommy won't be able to pick you up from school, but uncle bob will, so do whatever he says."

  • by EStrat ( 174854 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @02:55PM (#51090213)

    From TFA:

    Encryption played a significant role in the killing of two people during a shooting in Garland, Texas, earlier this year, Comey said. One of the shooters, Comey said, exchanged 109 encrypted messages with an "overseas terrorist."

    "We have no idea what was said because those messages were encrypted," he explained. "To this day, I cannot tell you what he said with that terrorist, 109 times the morning of that attack. That is a big problem."

    What did LE do before the internet?? There are all kinds of things that are/were said and done in this world, Mr. FBI, that you did not, will not, and often should not know. Why is that difficult for you to understand? Guy eats breakfast in a diner every morning; two weeks later he kills people. You don't know what was said in that diner, either. Should all diners be required to record all conversations that take place in their establishment, and forward them to the FBI?

    Wait, don't answer that, you probably think they should.

  • I love how there is a fundamental misunderstanding of how encryption works. The whole Playstation argument is fucking stupid too. Microsoft/Sony will work with law enforcement to trace paedophiles who use their gaming networks (even though most abusers don't use any technology. They abuse people they know; usually close friends or family members. But that's a whole-nother issue).

    This goes back to SOPA, PIPPA and any other law about the Internet. Congressmen and Senators are typically students of law. They h

  • Oh FFS, again? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ilsaloving ( 1534307 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @03:00PM (#51090271)

    Can this get any more formulaic?

    Is there a handbook on legislative tactics that specifically says, "If you can't get what you want any other way, emphatically shout THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!11eleventy!1!"

    Or is this tactic really that effective, so people continue to use it over and over?

  • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @03:00PM (#51090273)
    Why doesn't Feinstein also add to her bill a clause giving the cops the power to fly and invulnerability? That is just as possible as legislating that cops will have the ability to break encryption.
  • Diane "Buttlicker" Feinstein. You had it right all along, Jello.

  • by unencode200x ( 914144 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @03:07PM (#51090343)
    It's really concerning that we're seeing this trend all over the world. Even though most of these dinosaur-age politicians barely have a clue about encryption and technology in general they are now in a position to cause a lot of harm. Some of it may be unwittingly, perhaps the NSA folks are saying that they can't stop the terrorists without this.

    Consider that so many businesses and people have centralized their information into "the cloud" and more are moving everyday. Centralizing puts us all in a much weaker position since the cloud providers (Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Rackspace, etc.) will have to follow these potential laws.

    In contrast, before this cloud centralization millions of servers would have to be updated all over the country and at a minimum it would take much longer to implement something like this. People and companies would also have more options and control over their data.

    In any case, it's disappointing to me that this is happening in the United States. It reminds me of why my father risked his life fleeing from the communist country I was born in.

    Lastly, it's not going to matter anyway. The criminals will still break the law and probably move to even more encrypted/secured services.
  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @03:12PM (#51090383)

    This bill would require a court order before the encryption can be "pierced".

    Well, if you have a court order, you don't need to pierce the encryption - if the suspect fails to give you access to the messages in question, you can lock him up for failure to comply with a court order! And you can keep him there indefinitely until he complies! THE GRANDKIDS ARE SAFE!!

    • Which is already something that can be done. Courts have ruled that you have to turn of encryption keys and passwords before.

      This bill just breaks the world trying to enforce what we already have through involuntary methods.

  • by rgbatduke ( 1231380 ) <rgb@ p h y . d u ke.edu> on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @03:12PM (#51090387) Homepage

    ... force you to decrypt any encrypted document with a court order. In fact, the law is so broad that if you go into court and the judge says "please give these nice officers the encryption keys for your hard drive" and you say "no", they can say "OK, I'll just put you in jail for contempt of court, without bail, until you do." Which can literally be forever. There are no limits that I know of for jail time for contempt of court for an ongoing refusal to comply with a court order. So it can literally be life not even in prison, in JAIL, until you do.

    If th issue is terrorism, the powers are even broader and can involve you being sent to a concentration ca -- I mean "federal jail on a remote island" until you cough up a lot more than just the keys.

    What they want is the power to read dynamical communication streams in real-time, because decrypting them is often too difficult even for the NSA and because a lot of them are encrypted with one-time or digitally saved keys so that a user CAN'T just cough them up. If my ssh private keys went away, do you think I have them memorized? NOBODY could decrypt my old network traffic, not even me!

    Now we just have to wait a bit for the legislative branch to realize that a) we lack the theorems needed to make their nifty idea work; and b) any end user can trivially work around it by simply exchanging keys for one of the known secure algorithms; c) it isn't necessary for any saved, recorded data; and d) it isn't constitutional. It's exactly like trying to pass legislature that would require all house keys to be "registered" and constructed in such a way that a master key in the possession of the police would open them. Good luck with that one.

    Besides, they already can. The key is called a "brute force", and if they use it, yeah, they have to go up against the effort the householder put in to stopping brute force entry. If their "house" is a repurposed bomb shelter with six foot thick concrete walls, good luck to them.

    rgb

  • by dmomo ( 256005 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @03:24PM (#51090527)

    So, is she proposing that the authorities have the tool / keys to do this, but must pinky swear not to use it without permission?
    If they were in earnest about the need for a warrant / oversight, then they should have no reservation about agreeing for it to actually be impossible for the authorities to "pierce" communication without being first granted specific, targeted keys to do so. This would be a one-time expiring key pairing between the communications provider and the Court, which is handed to the authorities.

    I suspect they would decline this solution, because it isn't a carte blanche opportunity to monitor at their own discretion.

  • by fnj ( 64210 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @03:39PM (#51090677)

    "The barbecue is set for September 22. Tell Ahmed to bring the burgers and Moe the chips."

    Sir, it's some kind of code. Call up AT&T and find out what "burgers" stands for and what "chips" stand for. You'll need a warrant. Judge LeRoy is a dependable rubber stamp.

  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <<jcr> <at> <mac.com>> on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @03:44PM (#51090723) Journal

    FineSwine is more accurately described as a bottom-feeding scumbag.

    The great tragedy of Harvey Milk's assassination is that FineSwine was able to milk it to get a senate nomination.

    -jcr

  • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Wednesday December 09, 2015 @05:26PM (#51091551)

    For being a jew she sure is a fucking nazi.

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