The Internet is everywhere these days. With the Pew Research center finding that 84 percent of American adults are online, it's clear that this technology has reached extremely far into everyday life. There are a lot of interesting things the average person can do with an Internet connection but sadly, there are some individuals out there that want to use it with malicious intent.
Encryption of private information has been around for quite a long time, but recently it's come under fire due to those that abuse it. This has lead many politicians to demand that companies and people using encryption create a backdoor for law enforcement officials. While it is true that encryption can be misused by terrorists and for general cyber crime, demanding backdoor access simply isn't feasible.
Encryption is like the lock on a door
The problem with explaining a situation like this to would-be encryption banners is how advanced this technology is. Encrypting data requires quite a lot of cyber security knowledge, not to mention the advanced mathematics behind it. The best way to describe why encryption backdoors are a bad idea is likening it to a physical object, like the lock that's on a front door.
For sake of argument, imagine someone living in a very bad neighborhood. Robberies are a common occurrence around them, and as such this person invests in a very secure front door. It's steel plated, is extremely durable and has a nearly impenetrable lock. The house has no other windows or doors, so the installation of this door gives the individual a serious amount of security.
Now, imagine this person lives down the street from a known criminal. The criminal is involved in a lot of illegal activities, and he's become a serious problem for the community. The police want to gain access to his house in order to bring him to justice, but they can't. He's invested in the same door and lock that the other person did, and without any other access points to his home, the police aren't able to apprehend him.
To remedy this, law enforcement officials ask that the company that sold the door to put a key to every lock they've sold under the door mat of the person they sold their product to. The police say that they'll be the only ones to ever use this key, promising that they'll only ever use it against criminals. Although these law enforcement officials are well intentioned and only want to take a dangerous individual off the streets, they've just given every criminal in the area the ability to break into whatever house they choose.
This is what industry experts fear will happen if encryption backdoors become the norm. Those involved with cyber crime know how to exploit backdoors just like how criminals know to check under the door mat for a key. Law enforcement officials will certainly have an easier time apprehending the known criminal, but at the cost of risking the security of every other person in the community.
Apply this way of thinking to modern encryption misuse
As Trend Micro's Chief Technology Officer Raimund Genes stated in an article on encryption, "There is no such thing as secure backdoored encryption." The entire point of encryption is to guard against even the most advanced targeted attacks. By creating backdoors, law enforcement officials would be seriously compromising the cyber protection of encryption as a whole.
The problem with explaining the necessity of secured encryption, aside from the technical aspect of it, is that it's misuse can lead to very tragic events. The New York Times reported that terrorists involved in the attack on Paris used encryption to keep their messages secret.
No one defending the use of encryption would ever say the malicious individuals behind this attack were right in their misuse of this technology. In fact, their argument is quite the opposite.
By demanding companies provide backdoors to their encrypted information, law enforcement would be opening up the floodgates for targeted threats against these businesses. The police would like to think we live in a world where they can control the flow of information, but this simply isn't the case. Encryption backdoors would destroy the Internet and all of the innovations that it has provided.
What's to be done?
As with just about every problem facing modern society, the answer to encryption misuse is more education and knowledge. Law enforcement officials and politicians need to understand the complexity of this problem. They need to be taught what an encryption backdoor can actually do, and how providing one simply isn't the answer to the misuse of this technology.
Law enforcement agencies obviously need help catching cyber criminals, something Trend Micro has a lot of experience in. That being said, encryption back doors will only benefit those nefarious individuals that know how to exploit them for personal gain.