Computing Professional Skills, Current Issue in the Computing & Security Field – Encryption
Discussion Board Activity: assume that you have been appointed by the UAE government to a task force of 5 or 6 computing professionals that work in information security. You have been asked to examine the current issue outlined in the article below. Your team has not been asked to make specific recommendations to solve the problem. Rather, you have been asked to make recommendations that will help the Government decide what next steps they should take.
This task is discussion-based, meaning you will participate through a collaborative exchange and critique of each other’s ideas and work. You need to think carefully. You need to look at the issue from various perspectives.
So as to guide your discussion six questions are given for you to consider. These guiding questions are in line with the steps and main considerations when examining and solving complex issues. You need to be sure that your answers are from facts and giving opinion based on facts, so you need to scrutinize the information to be sure it is accurate. You need to access and read other sources of information to help your team understand the issue better.
- Timeliness and number
You must write a around 10 lines or so (200 words min) for each question
- Quality of Discussion
Your answer should show critical thinking and clear reasoning. While much of the content of your posts should be based on facts you should also give your opinion when appropriate. You must state where you got your facts so that the other team members can depend on them (and check them if they wish). It must be clear to others when you are giving opinion that it is opinion. Your posts must make a meaningful contribution towards the issue. Your posts must move the issue forward.
You should communicate your ideas clearly. Your grammar should be reasonably good and you should not have any careless errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation
Consider the following important guiding questions as you work on this.
- What are the primary and secondary problems?
- Who are the major stakeholders and what are their perspectives?
- What are some of the major professional, ethical, legal, security and social issues?
- What are the local and global implications of both the problem/s and possible solutions?
- What, if any, additional information would you need to effectively address the problem/s?
- What are the next steps that would lead to possible future solutions?
If you are amongst the one billion people who use WhatsApp, you may have noticed that the app now has end to end encryption. The latest version of WhatsApp with a 256 bit encryption feature means that only the sender and the recipient can read the 64 billion messages sent daily, and the high level of secure encryption technology makes it impossible for even the producers of WhatsApp to access messages. This move by WhatsApp was a reaction to the FBI and Apple case to unlock an iPhone 5 used by a terrorist. It has not been a popular development for authorities in the UAE where swearing or sending inappropriate pictures on WhatsApp can result in a huge fine or a jail sentence. The use of similar technology which encrypts information such as VPNs is banned in the UAE. Globally there are varying political approaches to Public Key Cryptography (PKC). Japan and the Netherlands support strong encryption and give their citizens privacy of communication, whereas others such as Turkey and Pakistan have laws against PKC.
Claimed by the Independent newspaper to be the country with the most spying powers, Britain has recently made changes to their law on encryption. In November 2016, Britain passed the Investigatory Powers Act, which gives police, security services and the government more access to private data. The government says this act gives them power to keep the public safe as it provides ‘transparency and privacy protection’. Opposed by companies such as Apple and Twitter, the act requires internet companies to save data on users for 12 months and to break into devices if requested by the government. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is a strong defender of encryption, and says there is no trade-off between privacy and national security. He claimed ‘the bill could give the government the power to demand Apple alters its messaging service works”, and claimed the public should be able to keep personal data private.
There is also international competition to develop the strongest crypto algorithms, which would be challenging for other governments to break. In response to terror attacks in Paris and California, law enforcement agencies in the UK want access to encrypted communications and the US is also exploring similar measures “to make it harder for terrorists to use technology to escape from justice”, according to Obama. The FBI wants to debate the use of encryption on communications with technology companies, reasoning that it can compromise safety.
In fact, PKC was originally classified as munition in the US but is now widely available and easy to use, for example Google and Yahoo both offer plug-ins. Privacy and security are now the main feature of apps and software, for example SnapChat has built end-to-end encryption into its service, so third parties and not even the app makers can access the pictures. PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), a popular encryption service, was initially restricted by the American government and in 1993 they introduced an encryption service with government access called Clipper chip, which quickly failed.
PKC allows users privacy in communications and financial transactions and it can protect against message forgery and spoofing, or changing messages, as users can know from a signature who information or communication comes from. This means that users can have a guarantee about the origin of information. PKC prevents law enforcement and governments from having access to user information and communications. Some people believe that governments should be able to access business, political and social activity on the Internet to monitor for crime and terrorism.
Weak encryption has been suggested as a compromise, or encryption which allows government access through a backdoor. History has shown this doesn’t work with the Clipper chip and weak encryption has been criticized for being pointless. Fair cryptosystems might be the answer, which allow strong encryption but certain information could be decrypted with a court order. However, the user might not co-operate, or might be in another country and so not fall under the same regulations. Also, the algorithm might be unbreakable.
Meanwhile technological developments continually change the possibilities such as Chrome Canary by Google, a new browser designed to protect users from next-next-generation cryptographic attacks. Recently, quantum-based random number generators are being developed which could offer the most secure encryption keys. WhatsApp has said that end to end encryption will be more widely used in the future as ‘it will ultimately represent the future of personal communication.’
Altaher, N. (2016, April 10). WhatsApp encryption: Online criminal activity no longer tapped. Retrieved from Gulf News : http://gulfnews.com/news/uae/crime/whatsapp-encryption-online-criminal-activity-no-longer-tapped-1.1707921
Carey, S. (2016, November 2). Snooper’s Charter: What you need to know about the Investigatory Powers Act. Retrieved from Computer World : http://www.computerworlduk.com/security/draft-investigatory-powers-bill-what-you-need-know-3629116/
Denning, D. (1996, January 6). The Future of Cryptography . Retrieved January 14, 2017, from Internet Security Review : http://encryption_policies.tripod.com/us/denning_1095_future.htm
Everington, J. (2016, April 18). WhatsApp locks in security with encryption of messages. Retrieved January 14, 2017, from The National : www.thenational.ae/business/technology/whatsapp-locks-in-security-with-encryption-of-messages
Gallagher, S. (2015, December 15). What the government should’ve learned about backdoors from the Clipper Chip . Retrieved January 14, 2017, from Ars Technica: http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2015/12/what-the-government-shouldve-learned-about-backdoors-from-the-clipper-
Griffin, A. (2016, November 18). Investigatory Powers Bill: ‘Snoopers Charter 2’ to pass into law, giving Government sweeping spying powers. Retrieved from The Independent : http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/snoopers-charter-2-investigatory-powers-bill-parliament-lords-what-does-it-mean-a7423866.html
Slack, A. (2015, June 18). WhatsApp Can Land You in Jail in the UAE. Retrieved from InfoSecurity: https://www.infosecurity-magazine.com/slackspace/whatsapp-can-land-you-in-jail-in/
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