Washington – In a report released today, 20 world-renowned technologists and security experts warned that a government proposal to modify Internet services to make them easier to wiretap would open security holes that could be exploited by criminals and foreign governments.
Recent press reports have indicated that the FBI is pushing the Obama Administration to endorse legislation that would require wiretap capabilities to be built into digital devices and services. CDT and others have long argued that such a mandate would threaten privacy and security and stifle innovation by companies both large and small.
Today’s report confirms and amplifies the security concerns: Leading computer security experts, many of them speaking out on the issue for the first time, conclude that the modifications sought by the FBI would undermine security. Signers of the report include the first chief technologist ever hired by the Federal Trade Commission and the inventor of the PGP encryption program.
“These experts are on the front lines trying to make the Internet more secure,” said CDT President Leslie Harris. “When they say the FBI proposal would open up security vulnerabilities, Washington should listen. At the very time the nation is so worried about cybersecurity, we should not be making computers, software, and networks weaker.”
“The FBI’s proposal would be horribly ineffective,” said Bruce Schneier, one of the world’s most influential computer security and cryptography experts and a co-author of the report. “Mandating wiretap capability in vast swaths of software will render normal law-abiding people less secure, while allowing criminals and terrorists to disable the wiretap capability or use more secure products from other countries.”
“This proposal could have serious unintended consequences, including on an international scale,” said Ed Felten of Princeton University, recently the FTC’s first Chief Technologist, and co-author of the report. “Because the services that will be subject to this mandate are used throughout the world, hundreds of governments will potentially be able to take advantage of this wiretap capability and gain access to private, corporate, and governmental communications.”