Thursday, September 25, 2014

FBI may be mad at Apple because of iOS8 encryption, but it was most likely just the first step

FBI director James B. Comey today sharply criticized Apple for locking the government out of even legal snooping by encrypting iOS8 devices. The move by Apple has been seen as a reaction to information about massive government privacy intrusions through NSA programs revealed by Edward Snowden.

However damaging the iOS8 encryption is to law enforcement, it is most likely just one part  of a long-term effort to restore customer confidence in smart products, the cloud and the transport networks that bind it all together.

Google has recently announced similar efforts to make encryption on future AndroidOS versions the default setting. Google and several other companies has also initiated programs to encrypt all internal traffic between their own data centers, traffic that pre-Snowden was presumed safe as it usually traveled on fiber links owned by Google and the other companies. Snowden has claimed this is not the case.

I believe that the next significant step we will see, possibly as soon as next year, is that major over the top (OTT) messaging applications will become wholly encrypted. There are already fringe applications out there that offers this safe form of communication, but in the near future, major players such as iMessage and WhatsApp are likely to include this encryption by default.

The combination of encrypted, and therefore safe, devices and messaging applications will create a secure end-to-end link between users. And because OTT applications rarely use carrier grade services such as SMS, it will be very hard to track even meta-data, much less content as compared to SMS where carriers often store data in collaboration with intelligence agencies and law enforcement, and are in many countries bound to do so by law.

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