A problem of trust. Not tech. Part 4

It is common ground that today, for practical purposes, strong encryption is unbreakable. But what about tomorrow? The next generation of super computers are expected to be able to crack the strong encryption currently being used in mass messaging systems, and they will do it in the twinkling of an eye.

Who knows when that next generation of super computers will become operationally useful and more widely available ?  Maybe they are ten years off, and always will be.  Nobody knows but, more to the point, even fewer people know when the next generation of operationally useful super computers will be in the hands of some very bad people e.g. Mr Putin or Mr Organized Crime. 

According to a story in “New Scientist” it is believed  “certain interests” (see above) are already intercepting and storing streams of encrypted data in anticipation of having the ability to crack it sooner rather than later. You just have to hope by the time that happens your most treasured business secrets, or the videos  taken on that weekend which is otherwise just a blurry, alcohol-soaked memory, cease to have any relevance or value to anyone who might otherwise be interested in harming you.

I don’t want to make too much of this.  There are super computer proof forms of encryption which can be and are already being deployed, but as far as I know none are suitable for use in the context of  the kind of mass messaging systems which are the subject of the present discussion about the roll out of E2EE.

But even if the algorithms used to defend against tomorrow’s super computers work to keep tomorrow’s messages away from prying eyes, they won’t be much help in relation to those messages already collected and stored in virtual or actual filing cabinets in a difficult-to-reach part of the planet.

We rarely hear about how the next generation of super computers could change the entire privacy paradigm, even in respect of messages being sent today. That is because when you are selling a product Rule No. 1 is you only focus on the good bits.

Yet another reason why, somehow, we need to create a new type of trusted, independent institution which can watch out for the public interest in amongst the massive marketing and lobbying budgets of large companies and the loud screeches of technocratic ideologues who believe they are the only true defenders of liberty, motherhood, apple pie and all things good in the world.

There will be one more blog in this series.

About John Carr

John Carr is one of the world's leading authorities on children's and young people's use of digital technologies. He is Senior Technical Adviser to Bangkok-based global NGO ECPAT International, Technical Adviser to the European NGO Alliance for Child Safety Online, which is administered by Save the Children Italy and an Advisory Council Member of Beyond Borders (Canada). Amongst other things John is or has been an Adviser to the United Nations, ITU, the European Union, the Council of Europe and European Union Agency for Network and Information Security and is a former Executive Board Member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. He is Secretary of the UK's Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety. John has advised many of the world's largest internet companies on online child safety. In June, 2012, John was appointed a Visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. This was renewed in 2018. More: http://johncarrcv.blogspot.com
This entry was posted in Internet governance, Regulation, Self-regulation. Bookmark the permalink.