February 17, 2016

World-wide threats include the impact of “going dark” - US Intelligence

The U.S. Director of National Intelligence is out with the 2016 “Worldwide Threat Assessment.” This is an every-February report to the public on the risks the American intelligence community sees in the contemporary world.
Lots of commentators traditionally try to use this report to show that somehow it supports their political point of view — whatever it may be. You’ll see a lot of such comment, but here is the actual report, so judge for yourself.

On two points — the Internet of Things and encryption — the report is pretty clear.

In the first section, Cyber and Technology, the authors have this to say about the Internet of Things. “…Many of these new systems can threaten data privacy, data integrity or continuity of services….” The report candidly notes that intelligence services might take advantage of this development. (p. 1)

But what technology may give to intelligence services it also takes away.

In a substantial section on Terrorism, the report notes the advent of strong end-to-end encryption. The threat is very real because terrorists, “…will easily take advantage of widely available, free encryption technology, mobile-messaging applications, the dark web, and virtual environments to pursue their objectives.” (p. 10)

In Congressional testimony on Februaru 9, 2016, the day the report was released, FBI Director James Comey, noted that the U.S. still has not been able to get past encryption on a cell phone belonging to one of the killers in the December 2 shootings in San Bernardino, CA.

The obvious point? That some solution to give legal investigative access to encrypted data is becoming more an more essential.

David Vincenzetti CEO, Hacking Team