Mobile Encryption is a Huge Problem

That’s the position of FBI Director Christopher Wray.

To put it mildly, this [mobile device encryption] is a huge, huge problem.  It impacts investigations across the board.

Certainly, consumer-done encryption of our communications devices can temporarily hinder investigations of the criminals who also use this encryption.  But as the FBI demonstrated regarding an encrypted cell phone involved in the San Bernardino terrorist attack, its initial claims notwithstanding, the encryption can be broken without the cooperation of the device’s owner.

Asset Forfeiture

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has withdrawn President Barack Obama’s (D) blanket hold on asset seizure, but with safeguards.  I think those safeguards need improvement.

Stop sharing seized assets with local law enforcement.  Each State has its own laws regarding asset seizure by local law enforcement; these laws should be respected and not bypassed.

Also:

Sessions’ new guidelines say that state or local agencies seeking forfeiture under federal law must demonstrate probable cause within 15 days of the seizure. The sponsoring federal agency must notify the property’s owner within 45 days, so he can challenge it, including by going to court.

International Censorship

France wants to enforce a “right to be forgotten” law (recently enacted by the EU that allows persons to demand publicly available information about them to be erased from links in search engine results) inside other nations than the EU membership—inside the United States, for instance.  Google, et al., is demurring, and France has taken the matter to the EU’s highest administrative court, the Court of Justice.

The case will help determine how far EU regulators can go in enforcing the bloc’s strict new privacy law….

“Pre-Crime”

Another word for Government’s prior restraint of private citizens, a word used by Holman Jenkins in his Friday op-ed to disguise this assault on our freedoms.

Let’s face it, with big data, with impersonal algorithms that could track every earthly resident’s web activity, travels, purchases and electronic interactions with the world, it might be quite possible to know whose life and personality are disintegrating, who might seek to resolve the impasse by going on murder binge.

Incidental Unmasking

Now we know that then-National Security Advisor to then-President Barack Obama (D) Susan Rice asked several times for American names to be unmasked that had been masked since their presence in communications of foreign nationals that were being legitimately monitored was entirely incidental to the communications and the reasons for which those communications were being monitored.

Rice’s requests were strictly legal; the NSA incumbent is one of the Executive Branch officials with the legal authority to ask for, and to receive, the names to be unmasked without having first to go through a court, even the secretive Star Chamber FISA court.

Distractions

Congressman Adam Schiff (D, CA), Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee, wants them.  He’s so anxious to have them that he’s insisting that Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R, CA) to stop being Chairman.

Mr Nunes should step aside from any congressional investigation pertaining to Russia or to the “incidental” collection of intelligence information, like what Mr Nunes said occurred to Mr Trump’s transition team.

Mr Schiff said in a statement it was “not a recommendation I make lightly…. I believe the public cannot have the necessary confidence that matters involving the president’s campaign or transition team can be objectively investigated or overseen by the chairman.”

Inadvertent Tapping and Leaks

As House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R, CA) revealed the other day enroute to the White House, intelligence community personnel, in the course of surveilling the communications and other activities of foreign nationals (vis., Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak), also surveilled incidentally members of then-President-Elect Donald Trump’s campaign and transition teams, and perhaps Trump himself.  Wire tapping, indeed, if loosely and metaphorically.

Of larger import, though, is this, also from Nunes.

…the intelligence “ended up in reporting channels and was widely disseminated.”

It was previously reported that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was “unmasked” in this way; however, Nunes said “additional names” were unmasked as well.

Honeypots

In the cyber world, a honeypot

consists of data (for example, in a network site) that appears to be a legitimate part of the site but is actually isolated and monitored, and that seems to contain information or a resource of value to attackers, which are then blocked.

Of course, nothing prevents nefarious persons or entities from using honeypots to draw in honest folks for nefarious purposes.  Purposes like the following.

The trove of leaked Democratic National Committee emails posted to Wikileaks on July 22 has sparked concerns about malware as users access the vast trove of documents.

On the day of the leak, Google’s Transparency Report warned users of dangerous downloads from Wikileaks.org. Google has not revealed specifically what was detected….

The Feds Want to be in your Child’s School Bathroom

…right along with anyone else confused about who should or should not be there.

The Obama administration will send a letter to every public school district in the country telling them to allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their chosen gender identity, as opposed to their birth certificate.

President Barack Obama (D) threatened in his letter to withhold Federal funding for those school districts impertinent enough to not comply with his decree.  South Dakota v Dole might have an impact on his threat, but Obama has never let legitimacy get in the way of his edicts, and this is another lame duck/what’re-you-gonna-do-about-it-in-my-last-8-months example.

Encryption and Safety

Senators Richard Burr (R, NC) and Dianne Feinstein (C, CA), in their op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, demonstrated their lack of understanding of the relationship between security and safety.  Their piece’s title, Encryption Without Tears, illustrates their basic misunderstanding of the inherent tension between the two, here encryption and safety.

In an increasingly digital world, strong encryption of devices is needed to prevent criminal misuse of data.  But technological innovation must not mean placing individuals or companies above the law.

Neither can technological backdoors be allowed to place government above the law.