James Clapper Says Nerd Magic Can Solve Terrorist Content Filtering, Create Safe Encryption Backdoors

from the harry-potter-but-for-lawful-access dept

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper went from having a comfortable, shadowy job in a comfortable, shadowy office to being the face of the American surveillance state after the Snowden leaks. Instead of only being periodically hassled by a couple of Intelligence Committee members (mainly Ron Wyden), Clapper was called to account for the NSA's apparent surveillance sins. And he handled it badly.

After plenty of evasive discussion, Clapper finally said, "Oh, you mean those phone records," and ushered in a new era of slightly less bulk metadata collection. But he still made the most of his speaking opportunities to pin the woes of the terrorized world on Snowden, noting his leaks "sped up encryption adoption by seven years." It was an oddly precise estimate, especially given the contradicting evidence showing terrorists hadn't really changed their communication methods in response to the Snowden leaks.

Clapper is no longer the Intelligence Director, but he's still beating the encryption drum during interviews. And it appears he's aligned himself with another former government employee, James Comey. Speaking to the National Press Club in Australia, Clapper called for both harder nerding and tech companies being a (possibly compelled) source of light in the growing darkness.

As governments around the world face the ongoing threat of extremism, former US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says tech companies have a social "responsibility" to take better care of what appears on their platforms.

[...]

"I do think there is a role to play here in some screening and filtering of what appears in social media," he said.

"In the same way that these companies very directly capitalise on the information that we make available to them and exploit it, it seems that that same ingenuity could be applied in a sensitive way to filtering out or at least identifying some of the more egregious material that appears on social media."

How social media companies are supposed to auto-filter all terrorist content is, of course, left unexplained. When companies like Facebook can't even filter human breasts without screwing it up, it's a stretch to say the problem of terrorist content and communications is just a coding breakthrough away. Considering the vast amount of content posted everyday on major networks, it's not as simple as applying a bit more mental elbow grease. Much of this is relegated to algorithms, simply because there's not enough manpower in the world to handle the input of billions of social media users.

Clapper also called for tech companies to "work with" law enforcement to provide access to encrypted communications.

Clapper suggested that cooperation could mean "law enforcement particularly would be allowed access to encryption" if it could be done in a "safeguarded way."

"I hear the argument about if you share once with one person and it's forever compromised. I'm not sure I really buy into that," he said.

It really doesn't matter whether Clapper "buys" this or not. It's a fact. And it's a fact that's been demonstrated in explicit detail by the leak of NSA software exploits. A hole is hole -- one that can be used for good or for evil. The world's top intelligence agency can't even keep its exploits secure. How are we expected to believe law enforcement agencies are going to keep these backdoors from being discovered and exploited?

Clapper grooved on the Comey vibe during this talk, acting as though tech expertise is some sort of dark art used deliberately to stick it to The Man. Anyone who uses the phrase "miraculous technological things like iPhones" shouldn't expect to have their assertions taken seriously. It suggests the person making them still has trouble distinguishing between innovation and magic. Consequently, it's these sort of people who continually claim "safe" backdoors are possible, rather than being the mythical deus ex machina they actually are.

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Filed Under: backdoors, encryption, filtering, james clapper, nerd harder


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  1. icon
    ECA (profile), 14 Jun 2017 @ 12:34pm

    Dont know..

    HOW much of what these folks say, is true or not..
    They have been preaching this for along time.
    They have been SAYING and TELLING us they can break anything, and built a FEW major intercept locations designed to Crack and break and monitor What goes on, On the internet..

    I do know, and have a good amount of experience with computers, hardware and software released to consumers and some of the OLD LARGE computers.

    Saying things about how this stuff works from THEIR SIDE, shows me that Most of them have never even taken a computer class.
    I have said many times that searching the net and de-crypting ANYTHING hidden would be a monstrous undertaking.. They tried it 1 time in the past and FILLED a 20x20 room 3 foot deep in 1 day. enough information/data to take 3-5 years to sort, unless you had ENOUGH people to do the job. This is an OLD idea of using 1/2 the nation to watch over the other 1/2, and those 1/2 watching the others, watching them..
    Over the last 10 - 15 years..The internet has grown Huge. And communication in many forms happens, from programs talking to programs to Data being sent back and forth, from OPEN channels of TXT communication, to Naked pictures.. There are Many peograms from Games to Chat programs that let people communicate with each other..BEING ABLE to find and use/monitor ALL those channels would be a task. All the different chat programs and Languages involved would make it a Task and 1/2...
    NOW take a abit more information, that the INTERNET was not designed around GRAPHICS and BROWSERS..those are secondary, and even Further down the line..the OLD internet is a strange place for many. And lots of Keyboard typing.. What you see NOW days with Browsers is about 1/100th of what is behind your browser.
    IF someone wants to Create a Private chat..it isnt to hard. Monitoring "ALL" of this, is a Task from hell..You woiuld need Monitoring on Every computer from Point to point, to even trace this..From the Beginning to the END of a chat channel. Even in the USA you will travel between 4-16 Computer systems to GET ANYWHERE.. Iv experienced SOME of the monitoring done in the past, as playing games or chatting CAUSES LAG, Esp when you hit International Borders..

    Example: Look at China and North Korea..TRYING to block ANY AND ALL data..Then trying to monitor it. With all the internet, all the cellphone, all the FORMS of communication there is only 1 way to BLOCK IT ALL.. DONT connect to the system, and RUn an EMP field around the country so no one can communicate with a Satellite.. And a waste of power/energy, and resources..

    Every time I hear about a Server break-in, I laugh. WE/CORPS keep trying to cut corners and Limit the number of people they PAY to do a job, and AUTOMATE things..Let the computers do it. Critical thinking IS NOT what a computer does, a Computer is only YES/NO.. There are other ways for a computer to decide, but that is the easiest. And as with being a SNEAKY THIEF, its easy to bypass most of the Alarms.. When you have a HUMAN to bypass, you have someone that can THINK/FIGURE out what MIGHT BE HAPPENING..
    I laugh because of HOW advanced we are NOW, and WHY things are NOT done to track and verify WHO is on the other end of a Servers connection.

    NOW, back to Encryption..
    IF I wanted to HIDE something on the net for 1-many..It would not be hard. NO direct communication involved. AS easy as an Advert/POPUP, that goes around the world. And only a FEW know HOW to see/read it..
    How about a designed SITE with Updates, and a Picture that has encoding in it.
    Or setting up on a remote server ANYWHERE in the world a FAST burst of data that is triggered (at a time/instance/something happening) and sent to Any place/Everyplace.. If you dont know this trick, Lookup Zombie machines/computers..GREAT for DDOS..

    TRACKING and decoding everything on the internet, would take 1/2 the power of the internet.. GET the other countries to help and use THEIR resources to do the job, OR create a BIG/LONG connection to EVERY server on the net.. THEN decode the graphic interface of 5-7 computer languages used AND the old internet.. LET computers SORT it, and HUMANS examine it, and ........ 3-5 to 10 years AFTER the fact..

    I dont need to continue, it just gets More and more complicated on WHAT/HOW can be done..ANYTHING can be done, but how much time do you have.

    As with ALL WAR, you need people on the ground, to identify the bodies.. Unless we can get someone to Knock on the door and arrest someone, a computer can only Point a finger OVER HERE/THERE/SOMEWHERE ELSE..

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