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By | Richard Chirgwin 2nd June 2015 03:56

IT-savvy US congressmen to Feds: End your crypto-backdoor crusade

Bad actors will like bad ideas

US Congress' only Comp. Sci. majors are trying to convince the head of the FBI that there's no such thing as a safe backdoor.

In yet another attempt to instil good sense in the Feds, Congressmen Will Hurd and Ted Lieu have written an open letter to FBI director James Comey trying to spike the latter's enthusiasm for encryption-busting for law enforcement.

Last September, Comey fired the first shots in the new crypto-war, complaining that crypto stopped the FBI from collaring crims. With that encouragement from the US, UK prime minister David Cameron joined the ban-crypto camp.

That's led the tech sector to fight back against a revival of the 1990s' “crypto wars”.

Hurd's and Lieu's letter says that imposing weak crypto on tech companies and their customers goes beyond asking companies for help fighting crime: “There is a difference between private companies assisting law enforcement and the government compelling companies to weaken their products to make investigations easier”.

Second, they make the hard-to-argue point that any backdoor “can be exploited by bad actors such as criminals, spies and those engaged in economic espionage.”

They continue that “computer code and encryption algorithms are neutral and have no idea if they are being accessed by an FBI agent, a terrorist or a hacker”, something that hasn't been addressed in oversight hearings on the issue.

Special access for governments would also be abused by despots, sorry, by “governments with fewer civil liberties protections”.

And a backdoor in (say) Mountain View's or Cuptertino's crypto will simply drive ne'er-do-wells to use products from outside the US, they write.

“As computer science majors and members of the IT Subcommittee, we strongly urge the FBI to find alternative ways of addressing the challenges posed by new technologies”, they conclude. ®

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