[cryptography] Paris Attacks Blamed on Strong Cryptography and Edward Snowden

Jeffrey Goldberg jeffrey at goldmark.org
Tue Dec 1 23:34:12 EST 2015

On 2015-12-01, at 1:40 PM, Arshad Noor <arshad.noor at strongauth.com> wrote:

> It is a "choice amongst losses" only when you believe you are in a zero-sum game.  However, there is another choice that can reduce, if not eliminate, violence.

Well sure it would be good to behave in a way that doesn’t result in people wanting to attack you; but when looking at securing something, we should always assume that there will be those who wish to attack.

I don’t lock my bicycle because I think that everyone is a criminal. I lock it because I think that the chances of a criminal noticing it is high enough it becomes worthwhile to lock it. And to continue with this analogy, saying “well, let’s work towards a world in which everyone has all of the bicycles they need” just doesn’t feeling like a realistic approach.

My country, the US, is being hit with small acts of domestic right wing terrorism (one can quibble about definitions), but it isn’t organized or funded. (And so it is exceedingly difficult to identify attackers or plots before they act.) Whatever the merits of the kinds of foreign policy you advocate, it really isn’t going to make this threat go away.

I bring that up only to point out that the question of terrorist-like attacks will always remain unless one believes in some sort of utopia. But in a utopia we wouldn’t need encryption either because nobody would try to read documents that they weren’t supposed to. We wouldn’t need authentication and encryption in a utopia because everyone would respect each others privacy rights without it having to be enforced.

The questions we need to ask about “preventing terrorism” are the same questions we ask about “preventing crime”. What powers do we give to the state, what costs do we bear, and how much terrorism/crime are will willing to accept.

Just as we don’t give the state unlimited powers to prevent crime, and just as we don’t build our houses with solid steel walls with no windows to prevent crime, there are things that we shouldn’t do to prevent terrorism.

I think that a huge part of the problem is that people (and politicians) think about terrorism in radically different ways than they think about more mundane crime. And so returning to your point, sure it is a good idea to build a society in which few people are drawn to crime, that doesn’t mean that we can avoid the questions of the other choices we have to make about preventing crime.



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