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filling the void

Friday, November 23, 2007

Skype Crypto Unbreakable by German Police

Slashdot is running this article today. It's about how the German police is having difficulty breaking the cryptography used by the popular voice communication software Skype.

Germany's top police officer, Joerg Ziercke, said. "The encryption with Skype telephone software ... creates grave difficulties for us... We can't decipher it. That's why we're talking about source telecommunication surveillance — that is, getting to the source before encryption or after it's been decrypted."
My first reaction to this was "so, any and all other forms of encryption are easily breakable to you then?". This is, hopefully, not true, but it was phrased in such a way.
There was an especially good comment, with a really good finisher, and it was this one by hanssprudel:

This is a good thing. Having to install monitoring at the source or destination means an operation that requires effort and, hopefully, a court order. This means that their is judicial oversight, and that to catch criminals police have to do, you know, police work rather than just sitting around spying on us.

Ubiquitous encryption does not make law enforcement impossible. It just makes indiscriminate law enforcement impossible.
The bold face is mine. (If hanssprudel doesn't like me reprinting this, he's welcome to talk to me about it, and I'll fix it).
I think it's a good thing that the police should have to earn their keep. Sure, the beat cops are out there getting shot at, and they earn their paycheck, but in the age of digital surveillance, it has become to easy for organizations (governmental or otherwise) with clandestine agendas to spy on what other people do.
Granted, it has become easier to hide what we do as well (we as in normal people, not clandestine organizations), but that doesn't mean that the intelligence community should get carte blanche for spying on us.
Regardless of what technology you use, there should be checks and balances in place to make sure that the rights of the individual are not being violated. We should not regulate technology. That is useless, because it changes faster than the laws do. We need to regulate what can be done to people rather than how.

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