Encryption Ban Wouldn't Have Affected Paris Attackers' Plans

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2015-11-30 Print this article Print
encryption ban

However, we can suppose all we want. The reality is that the intelligence services in France and Belgium were unaware of the threat to Paris until the attack happened. It's been called an intelligence failure by many, and in some sense it was, but the fact is that the crisis caused by Syrian and Iraqi migrants has so overwhelmed the intelligence services in Europe that it shouldn't have been a surprise that terrorist forces would take advantage of it at some point.

But none of this has anything to do with encryption, which shows that it's really just a red herring being used to divert attention from the real issues surrounding the need for encryption in legitimate personal and business communications. It's easy to get people to agree that fighting terrorism is good, and then convince them that outlawing the use of encryption will solve the problem.

Unfortunately, while the tragedy of Paris is still fresh in so many minds, it's also possible to leverage this in an opportunistic effort to convince others in Congress that banning the use of strong encryption will somehow protect the United States.

The fact is that outlawing the use of strong encryption will do nothing of the sort to make the United States safe, and instead will likely do a great deal to make it just the opposite. The problem with a government-mandated backdoor is that it will be found, and probably found more than once. That means that cyber-criminals and malevolent nation-states will have full access to commercial data as it flows.

Unfortunately, it won't do the same for the criminals and terrorists, who will have no compunction against using unbreakable encryption regardless of its legal status. After all, if you're planning to blow up the U.S. Capitol or Times Square, what's the threat of a fine going to mean if you use strong encryption? Fining a suicide bomber after the fact seems to me to be an ineffective deterrent.


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