Thursday 15 October 2015

Take a Stance on Encryption at, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Access, Committee to Protect Journalists, National Cyber Security Awareness Month, United States, encryption, legislation
In the United States, October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month, an event that acknowledges the range of cyber threats in existence and promotes ways to reduce them. The solution, according to the U.S. government, is for all stakeholders to share in the responsibility of making the internet more cybersecure.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and Access, along with privacy advocates such as the Committee to Protect Journalists, are celebrating October by providing an outlet for citizens and government alike to take responsibility for their security: an online petition asking the Obama administration to stand up for strong security and not allow secret backdoors in technology. 

Since launching on September 29, the petition has garnered more than 60,000 signatures; the White House will provide an official response if the petition reaches 100,000 signatures in 30 days. Its demands include publicly supporting encryption; rejecting laws, policies and mandates that undermine security; and no longer pressuring companies to store data, make data available or implement vulnerabilities.

Early October has already brought news from the White House that Obama won’t push for legislation that would allow access to encrypted communication, but many insist a non-stance is no substitute for a strong stance. 

Cybersecurity expert and Chief Technology Officer of Resilient Systems Inc., Bruce Schneier, had little optimism regarding government intrusions into privacy: “It’s been an issue since the mid-1990s, and it’s not going away because some president somewhere got momentarily sensible. I don’t believe for a minute that the pressure, overt or covert, is going to lessen.”

Techdirt’s Tim Cushing similarly pointed out that a momentarily sensible president is no long term solution: Obama will leave office in January 2017 and—if the current presidential candidates’ platforms are any indication—with him could go what sensibility the government currently has regarding encryption.

Access’s US Policy Manager, Amie Stepanovich, concurred that conversation in Washington regarding encryption amounts to little more than ‘posturing’: for her, last week’s declaration to not take a strong stance simply means that conversation can continue behind closed doors without public input and law enforcement can continue to petition for whatever access it can get, as seen in a recent attempt to force Apple to unlock a phone. 

It’s undeniable that encryption is slowly gaining greater acceptance in the United States, but it would be unwise to believe there isn’t more to do. This October, consider taking responsibility for your cybersecurity by asking President Obama to do his part as well. It is time the United States took a strong stance in support of encryption, for its own security and the security of the world.

SumRando Cybersecurity is a South Africa-based VPN, Web Proxy and Secure Messenger provider. Surf secure and stay Rando!

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