By Susan Richardson, Manager/Content Strategy, Code42
It’s a powerful tool, created for good—until it falls into the wrong hands. Sounds like a classic James Bond plot, right? That’s how we see the battle surrounding government-mandated “backdoors” playing out—and why we side with Apple (and most of the tech world) in supporting the individual’s right to privacy. Because unfortunately, 007 doesn’t stand a chance against today’s cyber criminals.
Backdoors: the classic “good” tool that falls into “bad” hands
The FBI’s court order to Apple—and Apple’s official and very public response—is just the latest in an ongoing debate and struggle to find the balance between the need for security and the right to privacy. The pro-backdoor camp believes these tools are essential for investigating criminals, terrorists and other nefarious actors, preventing them from “going dark” behind the wall of encryption. This all seems reasonable in the short term. Their cause is just. It’s a means to an end we all want—safety and security. It’s a one-time thing, right?
Wrong. Once the technology exists, there’s no going back—and there’s no sure way to completely control how it’s used or how it evolves. So, what happens when these backdoor keys fall into the wrong hands? It’s the classic plot of the James Bond series and other spy thrillers. But this time, it won’t be a single villain; it will be the entire shadowy world of cyber criminals, wreaking havoc with the newly created (and hacked) “keys to the kingdom.”
“But the government will protect the keys!”
Think the bad guys won’t get the backdoor keys? Think again. The U.S. government is already being hacked with alarming frequency and ease. Just last week, President Obama acknowledged that government IT infrastructure is woefully outdated and easily outgunned by agile cybercriminals. Even if the government moves to shore up these vulnerabilities, the mere existence of backdoor keys will be blood in the water for hungry cybercriminals, giving even greater incentive to target government IT infrastructure.
Code42 supports the individual right to privacy
At Code42, we recognize the need to balance security with privacy, but we ultimately believe in the individual’s right to privacy. We’ve talked about the problems with backdoors before—and industry experts agree that the risks outweigh the benefits. Our consumer tools, including Code42 CrashPlan, help our customers protect this right. In the enterprise world, we designed Code42 CrashPlan to empower the enterprise to define their security policies, providing employees with a respectful sense of privacy.
Forcing tech companies to sabotage their own products and hack their own customers will have a disastrous impact on the tech economy. But expecting a technology to only be used for good is a shortsighted move with the potential for far greater harm than good. And like we said, James Bond won’t be saving the day on this one.