Law enforcement agencies claim they are “going dark”. Encryption technologies have finally been deployed by software companies, and critically, enabled by default, such that emails are flowing over HTTPS, and disk encryption is now frequently used. Friendly telcos, who were once a one-stop-shop for surveillance can no longer meet the needs of our government. What are the FBI and other law enforcement agencies doing to preserve their spying capabilities?
The FBI is rallying political support in Washington, DC for legislation that will give it the ability to fine Internet companies unwilling to build surveillance backdoors into their products. Even without such legislation, the US government has started to wage war against companies that offer secure communications services to their users.
As the FBI’s top lawyer said in 2010, “[Companies] can promise strong encryption. They just need to figure out how they can provide us plain text.”
At the same time, law enforcement agencies in the United States and elsewhere are acquiring the tools to hack into the computers of their own citizens. The FBI has purchased custom-built software, while other law enforcement agencies in the US and elsewhere use off-the-shelf spyware from companies like Gamma and Hacking Team. Regardless of the software they use, the capabilities are generally similar: They can enable a computer’s webcam and microphone; collect real-time location data; and copy emails, web browsing records, and other documents.