Encryption & Key Management , Next-Generation Technologies & Secure Development , Security Operations

Why Ex-NSA Chief Now Argues Against Encryption Backdoor

Protecting Business Secrets vs. Exposing Terrorists' Plans
Why Ex-NSA Chief Now Argues Against Encryption Backdoor
Former NSA Director Mike McConnell

Former National Security Agency Director Mike McConnell has changed his view of the value of the government getting device manufacturers to create a backdoor to allow law enforcement to bypass encryption to find out what the bad guys are up to.

It's quite a transformation for the former champion of the Clipper Chip, a cryptographic device created two decades ago that would have allowed the government to access encrypted private communications.

"We mounted an argument for submitting the Clipper Chip idea, getting it approved, and we were totally rejected," McConnell said earlier this month at a Washington Post cybersecurity forum. "I look back on that and say, that was the right decision because ... the old agency I used to be responsible for is doing better in signal intelligence than any time in its history."

In this audio blog (click on player beneath the photo), you'll hear McConnell, a former Booz Allen Hamilton vice chairman who is now a senior executive adviser to the business consultancy, explain why he believes providing backdoor encryption could cause more harm than good.

You'll also hear comments on the subject from U.S. President Barack Obama and Britain Prime Minister David Cameron along with FBI Director James Comey, who all defend the need and viability of backdoor encryption to read coded messages from terrorists planning attacks. Also, you'll hear cryptography guru Bruce Schneier explain why creating a way to circumvent encryption would be technically impractical.

The audio blog concludes with an observation that McConnell's new perspective furnishes government and law enforcement officials with a new way of thinking about using information technology to protect society.




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