EU dangerously drifting towards banning end-to-end encryption

(Image credit: Altalex)

The EU is continuing to pursue legislation that would effectively render encryption tools useless. The EU Draft Council Resolution on Encryption states that it will push for lawful access to encrypted content but, in effect, that would create a backdoor that would undermine end-to-end encryption.

“The European Union fully supports the development, implementation and use of strong encryption,” the draft legislation reads. “Encryption is a necessary means of protecting fundamental rights and the digital security of governments, industry and society. At the same time, the European Union needs to ensure the ability of competent authorities in the area of security and criminal justice, e.g. law enforcement and judicial authorities, to exercise their lawful powers, both online and offline.”

How exactly the EU will manage to gain access to encrypted content without greatly infringing on citizens’ privacy isn’t really explained. There are some vague ideas about creating an “active discussion” between tech firms, researchers and academics, but that’s about it.

Introducing vulnerabilities

Unfortunately, it’s not currently possible to create an encryption backdoor for law enforcement officials without creating a massive security vulnerability. Such a feature might help criminal cases but it would also jeopardize the privacy of everyone else at the same time.

“The old fashioned police tactics cannot decrypt encrypted messages very easily, putting many cases on hold, and no doubt law enforcement is worrying about WhatsApp introducing new disappearing messages also,” Jake Moore, Cybersecurity Specialist at ESET, commented. “However, putting the internet in jeopardy by demanding the relaxation of encryption is not the answer.”

Currently the proposal remains at the draft stage so a lot more needs to be done before it becomes EU law. Still, it’s worrying that high-level government officials don’t really seem to understand how encryption works.

Barclay Ballard

Barclay has been writing about technology for a decade, starting out as a freelancer with ITProPortal covering everything from London’s start-up scene to comparisons of the best cloud storage services.  After that, he spent some time as the managing editor of an online outlet focusing on cloud computing, furthering his interest in virtualization, Big Data, and the Internet of Things.