Today, almost 150 tech companies, non-profit organizations and security experts signed a letter against encryption backdoors and addressed it to President Obama.
The list includes companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, Cisco and Wikimedia; organizations such as the EFF, Fight For The Future, EPIC, Demand Progress; and security experts such as Bruce Schneier, Matthew Green and Philip Zimmermann (PGP, Silent Circle).
They all joined together to tell President Obama that he should not only end any efforts to undermine encryption, but he should also promote and fight for the adoption of strong encryption everywhere.
According to the group, working to undermine encryption in U.S. products will only serve to increase the mistrust international users and consumers have in American products, which means this could ultimately defeat the purpose of helping the U.S. government catch the "bad guys." Criminals will just start using secure applications and services from other countries, or they'll use available open source software.
The letter also said that strong encryption is a critical part of the modern information economy's security. It protects billions of people from threats every day, whether that's street criminals stealing laptops or phones, hackers trying to defraud people, corporate spies trying to steal trade secrets, or foreign spies trying to compromise our most sensitive national security secrets.
“Whether you call them 'front doors' or 'back doors,' introducing intentional vulnerabilities into secure products for the government's use will make those products less secure against other attackers. Every computer security expert that has spoken publicly on this issue agrees on this point, including the government's own experts."
Companies also argued that if they are forced to introduce a mechanism that allows U.S. law enforcement to access their data whenever they want, that would also encourage foreign governments to ask for the same capability. This would create a system riddled with security issues that would make companies vulnerable to hacking from other state actors or criminal organizations.
The letter ended by reminding President Obama that this debate has existed before -- in the 1990s during the "Crypto Wars" -- and it concluded that it's better to allow strong encryption to secure everyone, than to make everyone vulnerable just to catch a few.
It also said that back in 2013, President Obama's own Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies unanimously recommended that the U.S. government should:
“(1) fully support and not undermine efforts to create encryption standards; (2) not in any way subvert, undermine, weaken, or make vulnerable generally available commercial software; and (3) increase the use of encryption and urge US companies to do so, in order to better protect data in transit, at rest, in the cloud, and in other storage."
Recently, there was also a House hearing on the same topic, and the Committee, as well as all the security experts and technologists available as witnesses, agreed that encryption backdoors are a terrible idea that should not be entertained further.
It remains to be seen if President Obama will follow through on all of these recommendations and end any attempts from his own administration to kill strong encryption (such as having FBI Director James Comey continuously promote encryption backdoors in public).