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What is a back door encryption?



  A blue padlock.
deepadesigns / Shutterstock

You may have the term & # 39; coding backdoor & # 39; recently heard in the news. We will explain what it is, why it is one of the most disputed topics in the tech world, and how it can affect the devices you use every day.

An access key to a system

Most systems consumers nowadays use some form of encryption. To get past it, you must provide some form of authentication. For example, if your phone is locked, you must use a password, your fingerprint, or face recognition to access your apps and data.

These systems generally do an excellent job of protecting your personal information. Even if someone takes your phone, he cannot access your information unless he finds out your access code. In addition, most phones can erase their storage or become unusable for a while if someone tries to unlock them.

A back door is a built-in way to bypass that kind of coding. It essentially gives a manufacturer access to all data on every device that he makes. And it's nothing new ̵

1; this goes all the way back to the abandoned "Clipper chip" in the early 90s.

Many things can serve as a back door. It can be a hidden aspect of the operating system, an external tool that acts as a key for any device, or a piece of code that causes a vulnerability in the software.

RELATED: What is coding, and how does it work?

The problem with rear door encryption

  The lock screen on an iPhone X.
Kaspars Grinvalds / Shutterstock

In 2015, encryption rear doors became the subject of a heated global debate when Apple and the FBI were embroiled in a legal fight. Through a series of court orders, the FBI forced Apple to crack an iPhone that belonged to a deceased terrorist. Apple refused to make the necessary software and a hearing was planned. However, the FBI tapped a third party (GrayKey), which used a vulnerability to bypass encryption and the case was dropped.

The debate has continued between technology companies and in the public sector. When the case first came in the news, almost every major technology company in the US (including Google, Facebook and Amazon) supported Apple's decision.

Most technical giants do not want the government to force them to make a back door with coding. They claim that a back door makes devices and systems considerably less secure, because you design the system with a vulnerability.

While only the manufacturer and the government would initially know how they would gain access to the back door, hackers and malicious actors would eventually discover it. Shortly thereafter, exploits would become available to many people. And if the American government gets the back door method, would the governments of other countries get it too?

This creates a number of terrifying possibilities. Systems with back doors are likely to increase the number and scope of cyber crime, from targeting government devices and networks to creating a black market for illegal exploits. As Bruce Schneier wrote in The New York Times it also opens potentially critical infrastructure systems that manage major public utilities for foreign and domestic threats.

Of course it also comes at the expense of privacy. An encryption backdoor in the hands of the government allows them to view the personal information of every citizen at any time without their permission.

An argument for a back door

Government and law enforcement agencies that want an encryption back door, claiming that the data should not be inaccessible to law enforcement and security agencies. Some murder and theft investigations have stalled because law enforcement agencies were unable to access locked telephones.

The information stored in a smartphone, such as calendars, contacts, messages, and call logs, are all things that a police has the legal right to seek with a warrant. The FBI said it faces a & # 39; Going Dark & ​​# 39; challenge as more data and devices become inaccessible.

The debate continues

Whether companies should create a back door in their systems remains an important policy debate. Lawmakers and civil servants often point out that they really want a "front door", with which they can request decryption under specific circumstances.

However, a front door and a back door with coding are largely the same. Both still involve creating an exploit to provide access to a device.

Until an official decision is made, this problem is likely to appear in the headlines.


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