When Encryption Is Used By Terrorists, Drug Traffickers And Hard-Core Criminals
All Bets Are Off — Nobody Is Above The Law!
“We can’t accommodate terrorism. When someone uses the slaughter of innocent people to advance a so-called political cause, at that point the political cause becomes immoral and unjust” — RUDOLPH GIULIANI
In a recent report by CBC, we learned that “suspected child predators, drug traffickers and extremists allegedly planning attacks or to join ISIS are escaping the eyes of the law because of increasingly impenetrable encryption and other digital roadblocks.” CBC’s report entitled: RCMP want new powers to bypass digital roadblocks in terrorism, major crime cases offers details about 10 current “high-priority” investigations, too.
Previously, I spoke about FBI/Apple encryption spat in a post entitled: On Encryption — And The Need For Finding The Balance. Not surprisingly, as in US, law enforcement in Canada is also being severely hampered by encryption.
From the report, we know how much justice administration is being obstructed without solving encryption dilemma, as well as other technological challenges. And yet, the encryption solutions I proposed in my original post, are readily available, practical and fair.
We must assure democratic societies that no amount of difficulties in adopting technology innovations puts terrorists and hard-core criminals above the law.
Houston, We Have A Problem
To add weight and credibility to its case, RCMP released details about 10 “high priority” investigations: Inside 10 cases where the RCMP hit a digital wall
It’s not a secret that RCMP needs new powers to bypass digital roadblocks, such as encryption. Status quo is not acceptable, as too many terrorists, criminals and national security threats hide online and operate anonymously beyond the reach of police.
So when RCMP Commissioner, Bob Paulson, tells CBC: “I can safely say that there’s criminal activity going on every day that’s facilitated by technology that we aren’t acting on” — it’s time to act. By raising the awareness level, RCMP helps crystallizing four ideas openly discussed in federal government’s green paper on national security.
Entitled: Our Security, Our Rights: National Security Green Paper, 2016 — this Green Paper can be found at Public Safety Canada website. As intended, it promotes discussion and debate about Canada’s national security framework “which will inform policy changes that will be made following the consultation process.”
As expected, encryption issues are addressed. But so are additional investigative capabilities, requiring telecommunication and internet service providers to install interception and data-retention equipment in their networks.
Personally, I have great doubts, however - that the new laws should compel suspects to unlock their encrypted computers and cellphones. Unlocked by suspects? — good luck with that!
Investigative Capabilities in a Digital World
Below are some excerpts from the Green Paper describing four issues previously discussed:
“We live in a digitized and highly networked world in which technological innovation is always forging ahead, advancing our quality of life, but also bringing new threats to our security. The same technologies we enjoy and rely on everyday — smartphones, laptops and the like — can also be exploited by terrorists and other criminals to coordinate, finance and carry out their attacks or criminal activities.
We treasure our privacy, and rightly so, but we also expect law enforcement and national security investigators to be as effective in keeping us safe and secure in the digital world as they are in the physical world. But our laws on how information can be properly collected and then used in court as evidence were mostly written before the rapid pace of new technology became a consideration. In the face of evolving threats, investigators worry about four main problems:
1) Slow and inconsistent access to basic subscriber information to help identify who was using a particular communications service at a particular time;
2) The lack of a general requirement that domestic telecommunications networks maintain the technical ability to intercept messages;
3) The use of advanced encryption techniques that can render messages unreadable;
4) Unreliable and inconsistent retention of communications data
Basic Subscriber Information
Like looking up an address in a phone book or checking out a license-plate number, access to basic subscriber information is one way for law enforcement and national security investigators to identify an individual. But Canadian court rulings have reinforced the need for appropriate safeguards around basic subscriber information, some of which could, when linked to other information, reveal intimate details of a person’s activities. These rulings, combined with the absence of a clear law governing access to basic subscriber information, have made it difficult for law enforcement to obtain it in a timely and effective manner. Some other countries allow police and intelligence agencies to obtain basic subscriber information without going to court.
With legal authorization, the ability to intercept communications is a valuable tool in national security and criminal investigations. However, some communications providers are unable to comply with court orders to cooperate because they do not maintain the technical capability to do so. Their resulting inability to intercept communications can cause key intelligence and evidence to be missed.
Encryption technology is a tool that can be used to avoid detection, investigation and prosecution. After investigators get the proper legal authorizations and make a successful interception or seizure, the information obtained may be indecipherable due to encryption. And there is currently no legal procedure designed to require a person or an organization to decrypt their material.
“Data retention” means the storage of telecommunications information — keeping track of which telephone numbers a person dials, for example, or how long calls last. Phone and Internet records of this kind can be critical to effective investigations. But there is no general requirement for communications providers to retain this information. Some delete it almost immediately. Some use it for their own commercial purposes, and then destroy it.
These and other challenges are amplified by the fact that data moves instantaneously across national boundaries. Communications providers may offer their services in Canada, but may have no business presence here, and thus operate beyond the reach of Canadian law”
What I found shockingly transparent, is the admission by RCMP that “U.S., Australia, U.K. and New Zealand — members of our Five Eyes intelligence alliance — do much more than Canada to help their police forces deal with high-tech obstacles like encryption, and interception and storage of digital information.” The table below, says it all:
The Bottom Line:
As national security framework is being reviewed, online consultation will help developing future legislation, policies or programs. My recommendations on solving encryption problems should be considered as a viable solution. I have no doubts, that with a proper warrant in place, law enforcement should never depend on a “goodwill” of criminal collaborators.
Encryption Technology, or not — asking to solve security threats without such tools, amounts to sending your best warriors into a battle, with both hands tied behind their back.
Oleg Feldgajer is President & CEO of Canada Green ESCO Inc. Oleg is positioning the company to become a leader in financing AI enhanced green energy projects and ventures. CGE’s mission is to guide DISRUPTIVE businesses in ENERGY & TRANSPORTATION toward profitable business models. Oleg is passionate about such mission, and firmly believes that without AI based innovation, we will all prematurely choke on polluted air and dirty water. CGE delivers 100% financing (levered and unlevered) to its clients — and utilizes large equity pools, and non-recourse debt. Oleg offers creative, fresh ideas to open-minded businesses — that embrace both: logic AND opportunistic intuition. CGE stands against mediocrity & its modus operandi is quite simple: If CGE is not invited to join your BOD, or Advisory Board — we failed!