Germany seeks to prohibit end-to-end encryption

Over the last few years, governments around the world have attempted to ban encryption. Some have even succeeded. But what are the implications for privacy and security?

Speigel Online recently reported on the comments made by Germany’s Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, demanding unrestricted government access to end-to-end encrypted communications. These include your favorite chat apps like Telegram and WhatsApp.

He even went on to say that he would ban any type of app or service that doesn’t comply with the rule. However, at present, it’s not the law, rather, it’s the lawmaker’s thoughts.

Seehofer, the leader of the Christian Social Union, is known for his hardline “zero tolerance” policies. One of the most famous is his demand for extensive video surveillance in every “hot spot” around the country.

The idea of introducing anti-encryption laws isn’t new

This proposed ban might sound familiar. Teresa May called for it in the summer of 2017 after the London terror attacks. Former prime minister, David Cameron, also campaigned for this, repeatedly. It was also be proposed frequently by Rod Rosenstein in his capacity as the U.S. Deputy Attorney General.

Although the ongoing war against encryption generates an uproar from the technology experts and the encryption community, it’s not unprecedented for Germany. In fact, German authorities have been working on implementing a new law that would force device manufacturers to add backdoors within their products for some time now. The idea here is to assist law enforcement during legal inquiries.

Anti-encryption laws are already in effect in Australia, China, Iran, and Russia. But if you understand the technology and information security, you’ll know that properly enforcing such laws is virtually impossible.

Cryptography is at the core of cybersecurity

It’s near impossible to implement these laws effectively because encryption is critical to securing your sensitive data either in motion (like when you communicate with your bank or healthcare provider) or at rest (like on the cloud or on your hard drive).

If you deliberately compromise cryptography just to help the “good guys,” you’re also effectively opening yourself up to be hacked. Building impenetrable security systems that can effectively protect your digital assets is hard enough. Making them completely secure when law enforcement doesn’t need them will be impossible.

This is because it’ll be possible for anyone working for the state, or anyone who can bribe or coerce government employees, will be able to gain access to your sensitive data.

Encryption works. It’s the only reason why online banking even exists. If you deliberately compromise security protocols, it’ll essentially be open season for bad actors who want to engage in nefarious activities.

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