Cryptography

The History and Mathematics of Codes and Code Breaking

Tag: SvP (Page 1 of 2)

Finding a Balance

The US government should be given some latitude to infringe on citizen's privacy when it comes to national security. The reason I say some latitude is because this should only pertain to national security, not to daily breaking of laws.

Singh identified on page 293 that privacy for ordinary people has never entailed cryptography until recently. That is because exchanges between people have not been in a public space (the internet) until the internet was available to everyone. Singh also said on page 250 that the government weakened the encryption so that the average person cannot hack it and only they can. There has to be a sense of privacy for the citizens while maintaining security for the country.

The government should be able to computer based algorithms to intercept certain keywords on electronic media that may indicate a national threat. This process should be done by a computer with no human interaction, however, once a threat has been flagged it would allow someone to evaluate whether intervention is necessary. The government employees should not be allowed to individually eavesdrop on standard communications without a warrant, but if it is computer automated it should be allowed. If the infraction is anything that is not a national security issue, it should be ignored, no matter how severe the law being broken. This discrepancy should keep a balance between security and privacy.

At the end of the day we all have to trust our government; As long as the government is out to protect our national security and not to prosecute the citizenry, the balance will work.

Photo Credit: "afghanistan" by The U.S. Army via Flickr CC

Photo Credit: "afghanistan" by The U.S. Army via Flickr CC

Protect our Privacy

In my opinion, the U.S. government should not be given a large ability to use electronic surveillance for national security. Surveillance might catch criminals, but it also catches a lot of innocent people in its path. Citizens have a right to their privacy, a right that the government should not intrude upon without good cause. Giving the government a wide latitude to use electronic surveillance seems to me like it would give them the opportunity to surveil people even if they weren’t suspicious, doubtlessly intruding on countless private messages that a completely innocent person is sending. Our government is by no means flawless; some of their actions in the past regarding surveillance have definitely fallen into a moral grey zone. For instance, the U.S. government used unjustified wiretaps on Martin Luther King Jr. for several years, gathering not only information that would help them in debates concerning civil rights but “bawdy stories” and “embarrassing details about King’s life” (Singh, p. 307). Clearly, they have used wiretapping unduly before; allowing them a breadth of access to electronic surveillance would undoubtedly result in them pressing their advantage too far in some cases.

Photo Credit: "Security" by Dave Bleasdale via Flickr CC

Photo Credit: "Security" by Dave Bleasdale via Flickr CC

 

In addition, citizen privacy during transactions is extremely important to the economy of the United States as well as the economy of the globe. Without secure encryption, messages sent using the internet and purchases on the web would be far less trustworthy. Furthermore, as purchases on the internet have increased, there is greater incentive for criminals to try to decode these purchases and reach credit card information (Singh, p.308). Imagine all of the purchases that occur over the internet in this day and age; it would be incredibly destructive if someone could break into the encryption scheme we use to protect them. Millions of people could lose their credit card information, and a break in to this effect would undoubtedly dissuade some people from purchasing much on the internet anymore. Allowing the U.S. government a larger reach in electronic security would surely mean that the encryption we were using for online transactions would have to go down; the U.S. government has been trying to decrease the private citizen’s level of encryption for years in order to allow easier access to the government to their information. They might try to switch us to the American Escrowed Encryption Standard, which would allow them a databank of all private keys, or even try to limit the length that a private key can be (Singh, p.310). Both would decrease the power of our encryption methods, hardly keeping us safe from criminals who might be searching for a way to steal credit card information. Overall, allowing great government power for electronic surveillance hardly seems like a good idea; not only would the security of our internet transactions decrease with a decrease in encryption, the government could invade our privacy much easier.

Surveillence Weakens Security

Giving any entity broad power of surveillance allows for the possibility of said surveillance being used for malicious purposes. We can see that, in many countries with stricter government, citizens are under scrutiny and often, dissenters or overly vocal critics are silenced through arrest or worse. But while this surveillance allows for malicious government action, it also weakens overall security against criminals, making it more possible to compromise financial info, online identity, and other sensitive data.

Cybersecurity relies on a reliable encryption method in order to keep communications, transactions, and documents secure. The encryption must be reversible by the recipient and keep the message inaccessible to interceptors. Allowing the government to read messages would necessitate some sort of backdoor in the encryption. This has two disadvantages: by introducing a backdoor, we create flaws and weaken the cipher. This results in the difficult task of making a backdoor accessible to only the government. The second disadvantage is related, in that the nature of the backdoor and the details of its functioning must be kept secret as well to prevent third parties from gaining the ability to decrypt any encrypted message. If those details were to leak, say in an Edward Snowden-like scenario, the cryptography would become useless.

We saw in Chapter 7 of Singh’s The Code Book that, in the case of Phil Zimmerman and his Pretty Good Privacy program, his packaging of RSA and IDEA encryptions conflicted with a law in a recent anticrime bill requiring electronic communications services to allow government access to any plaintext communication if requested. The danger posed to the government by PGP resulted in Zimmerman being classified as an arms dealer, as powerful encryption was a risk to the security of the country. The mathematics behind RSA does not allow for an easy installation of a backdoor without majorly decreasing the strength of encryption.

Giving the government wide latitude to use electronic surveillance can provide a temporary security; we can’t deny that. However, we are creating flaws in our security; flaws that can be exploited by criminals and governments overreaching their power. Allowing broad electronic surveillance can give more security now, but in the long run will only lead to weaker privacy for everyone.

Iron_Bishop. Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons.

 

Necessity of Government Surveillance

As the world is currently in an information age and more information is being sent via the world wide web, it is necessary for the U.S. government to be given wide latitude to use electronic surveillance, even if that means citizen's privacy isn't always respected. The potential benefits of the government using electronic surveillance and the possible consequences of the government not utilizing electronic surveillance outweigh the potential loss of privacy of its citizens.

With increases in strength of encryption mechanisms, it is pivotal that the government and law enforcement agencies have wide latitude to use electronic surveillance so that they can stay one step ahead of the "bad guys". In Singh chapter 7, it is noted that "organized crime members are some of the most advanced users of computer systems and strong encryption." Also, there was a group labeled the "four horsemen of the infocalypse", being drug dealers, organized crime, terrorists and pedophiles. According to Singh, these are the four groups which benefit the most from strong encryption. All of these groups are constantly becoming more of a problem in our world today, and without the utilization of electronic surveillance, it can be nearly impossible to gather enough information to deal with these criminals in the best manner. If the government has wide latitude to use electronic surveillance, it would have the ability to catch some of these criminals and even prevent crimes and acts of terror from happening. However, without the use of electronic surveillance there would be many individuals and groups who would get away with criminal acts when they wouldn't otherwise. As seen in Singh chapter 7, the FBI still claims that "court ordered wiretapping is the single most effective investigative technique used by law enforcement to combat illegal drugs, terrorism, violent crime, espionage and organized crime."

It does need to be noted that when the U.S. government has wide latitude to use electronic surveillance, there is a potential invasion of the privacy of individuals. While I believe that the safety of U.S. citizens is more important than their privacy, there are those who disagree with this viewpoint. Even if we give the U.S. government wide latitude to use electronic surveillance, they should still do what they can to protect the privacy of individuals as much as they can at the same time. There are many ways to go about this, from an escrow system, to tighter regulations on the usage of information gained via surveillance. While the privacy of individuals is important, it is their obligation to allow their privacy to potentially be breached if it is for a more secure nation and society.

Camera-IMG_1961

Photo Credit: "Camera-IMG 1961" by Rama via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons

9/11 Changed Everything

At the time Singh wrote the novel, there was no blatant reason for the government to use surveillance for the interest of national security. Then September 11, 2001 happened. This day completely changed the interests of both the American citizens and the government. After this terrorist attack, people were willing to give up their privacy in order to achieve more security. I am not saying that the government should have complete control over all communications all the time. What I am saying is that the government should have substantial surveillance over communications in order to prevent other significant threats to the citizens of the United States.

In times of fear, people are willing to give up some of their privacy in order to feel safer. The thing is, cryptography should not disappear. Cryptography will only keep improving, and there is little to nothing that the government can do to slow it down. What the government, mainly the NSA, can do is keep its cryptanalysis above and better than the cryptography present at the time. Then the government can use its cryptanalysis in order to analyze and read encrypted messages. The government used wiretapping in the 1920s, but its new weapon is code breaking. Of course, citizens will always want their information to be private, but with the new information age, the government can use data mining and break through encryptions in order to evaluate certain suspects without any normal computer user ever noticing. The government can give people the illusion of privacy while also providing them with the reality of security.

It’s not so much whether the government can have wide latitude but what it can do with its wide latitude. For all we as normal citizens of the nation know, the government can read any and all of our messages. The government has the technology to break into almost any kind of encryption with its super computers, so as long as the government stays within its boundaries of security and does not blatantly invade its citizens’ privacy, it can continue to successfully use its array of electronic surveillance.

Photo Credit: "tower1-2"  by Damlan Korman via flickr CC.

Photo Credit: "tower1-2" by Damlan Korman via flickr CC.

 

Surveillance protects our children

 

 

All American citizens are entitled to their privacy. It must be remembered, however, that any electronic privacy granted to citizens is also granted to who Singh calls the "Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse - drug dealers, organized crime, terrorists, and pedophiles". Because of this, all citizens should be more than willing to give up a little privacy to protect their families, neighbors, friends, and all citizens.

CC image courtesy of Lunar New Year on Flickr

CC image courtesy of Lunar New Year on Flickr

Imagine you have a child. Imagine they were being targeted by an online pedophile. This pedophile is making disgusting comments to your child and trying to persuade them to meet.If you are like most people, you would probably contact the police or do something similar in an attempt to catch this person that is targeting your child. Now imagine that the police tell you that there is nothing they can do about it at the moment because they are required to protect the electronic privacy of citizens.

Many proponents of electronic privacy are worried about what the government is reading of theirs. This is just evidence of the geocentricism of Americans. As scandalous of a life you think you lead, the government really doesn't care unless you are plotting something that endangers the country. By insisting on your privacy to keep your gossip or your secret online relationship hidden, you're stopping the government from potentially preventing mass shootings or terrorist attacks or even child abductions. 

Losing our Voice

Voice

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The United State government should not be allowed to surveil its citizens and invade privacy in the interest of national security. The right to privacy was declared a basic human right. Taking that right away will weaken the voice of the citizens and allow the government more opportunity and more reason to increase surveillance in the future at the expense of other rights. This increased surveillance also increases the chance of an abuse of power.

If citizens allow their government to take away one right, then what is stopping them from taking away others on the basis that it will increase security? If a government knows it can get away with infringing upon the rights of its citizens, aware that the majority will not stand up and question them, it will be more inclined to abuse its power with the knowledge it is likely to suffer little repercussion if caught. There is evidence that the government has abused its power, especially when it comes to infringing upon the right to privacy. The government unjustly wiretapped telephone conversations of Martin Luther King Jr. and fed the information to Senator James Eastland, which he used in debates regarding a civil rights bill. Presidents such as Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon have been accused and proven guilty of unjust wiretapping (Singh, Ch. 7).

The U.S. government has shown its willingness to break the law and infringe upon the privacy of its citizens, allowing them to surveil the citizens for increased security. Allowing them to continue conveys that it is ok for them to do so. In the end, we will lose much more than just privacy. We lose our voice, our freedom and our rights.

Privacy in Moderation

The debate over privacy and government surveillance seems to present opposite ends of the spectrum. The government does not necessarily need to have “wide latitude” but it still needs some latitude to use surveillance for the benefit of our nation’s security. Completely preventing the government from being able to monitor suspicious activity would be detrimental to our society. Singh talks about the drug dealers, organized crime, terrorists, and pedophiles as the “Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse,” (Singh 305) and how they would most benefit from stronger encryption. Government involvement would allow the possibility of these criminals being stopped. The counterargument is that our privacy is more important, but that argument does not look at the full picture. For example, if there was a terrorist group plotting to attack a city and the government had no power to monitor online activity and thus unable to prevent the attack, we would have essentially sacrificed innocent people’s lives for the protection of our privacy. That is not a fair trade.

Photo credit: "Padlock" by wayne wayne via Flickr CC.

Perhaps it is our individualistic society that fosters this attitude, but privacy should not be prized over people’s lives. Besides, there is value to government use of electronic surveillance. With the number of people that have access to the internet, we have created a sort of virtual society, and as is evident with any society in the real world, crime is bound to exist. A little bit of monitoring could definitely benefit us. If the government is allowed to use electronic surveillance to a certain extent or within specific restrictions, then our privacy would still be protected and the government would still be able to provide national security.

The Importance of Privacy

jeff_golden. Flickr. Creative Commons.

jeff_golden. Flickr. Creative Commons.

The government does not have the right to infringe upon the privacy and security of United State’s citizen. The proposed idea of the government being given ”wide latitude” of surveillance breaches these privacy barriers that are protected by the Constitution. The ability to keep information secure has decreased with the increased use of technology. A face-to-face conversation is the most secure method or exchanging information but is not practical with todays growing world. “The advent of digital technology, which makes monitoring so much easier” fuels the desire to protect your information (Singh 306). This decreased ability to protect your information has led to the creation of enciphering methods on the Internet. The creation of this type of security has aided in the protection of citizen’s rights. These are ways that citizens protect their right to privacy and the government should not be allowed access to their citizen’s private information. The government should be prevented from infringing upon the security of its citizens without reasonable cause and search warrants. Giving the government ”wide latitude” would allow citizen’s rights to be violated. It is the government’s job to respect the constitution and the wishes of their constituents. The citizen’s rights are supposed to be of the utmost importance to the government and the basis of the constitution.

Safer From Government With Privacy

In the newer technological age, cryptography is becoming more and more relevant in everyday life. Unfortunately, there is a down side to this increase in technology and encryption. Encryption helps to protect the interests and communications of criminals and terrorism. The goal is to allow the public to enjoy these cryptographic advances with out letting criminals take advantage of them. Unfortunately, this is very difficult and therefore, some people think that the US government should be given wide latitude to use electronic surveillance in the interests of national security, even if this sacrifices some privacy. In reality, the national government will overstep its bounds and take advantage of its surveillance if it has the opportunity.

Photo credit: 'Privacy' by Sean MacEntee. Flickr. Creative Commons.

Photo credit: 'Privacy' by Sean MacEntee. Flickr. Creative Commons.

Singh puts forth the example of wiretapping and the negative consequences of it in the 1960’s. Martin Luther King Jr. was wiretapped and recorded telling bawdy stories. These stories were then played in front of President Johnson and organizations that were debating supporting him. Other stories included President Kennedy wiretapping senators with the concern that they were being bribed. Although it was later determined that the senators were not being bribed, Kennedy was provided with valuable political information to win the bill. Not only does this prove that recording private conversations, whether its over the phone or via the internet, is unethical, it also shows that there is no moral way to trust a government with this power.

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