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Encryption Technologies Central to Debate About Online Free Speech, Say CDT-Charles Koch Event Panelists



Screenshot from the first webinar of the series, on Monday

December 13, 2020 – In the kick-off session to a weeklong series about “The Future of Speech Online,” the past, present and future of cryptography was front and center.

Can users enjoy the protections of end-to-end encryption and also be able to “get” bad actors? The problem, according to Erica Portnoy, senior staff technologist at the Electric Frontier Foundation, is that our society can’t have both.

Portney, one of the speakers in Monday’s session of the series sponsored by the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Charles Koch Institute, said that as a developer, she saw a marked difference in how the term “end-to-end encryption” was used in the field versus in the policy arena.

The use of the term in the policy arena has created conflict, she said. As a technical term, end-to-end encryption referrs to the process of turning a message into a secret message by its original sender to be decoded only by the final recipient. The “ends” here are the two devices—the sender’s device and the receiver’s device—and the encryption ensures that no can intercept or leak information in the conversation because the only people with the code to decrypt the message are the two parties conversing.

But end-to-end encryption is rendered null when people want the protections encryption can provide while also wanting to scan messages for potential threats. The latter, called client-side scanning, refers to when someone, usually the provider of the messaging platform, scans the messages before they’re encrypted to check for contraband materials.

If it is determined that the message has this illicit content, the app may refuse to send the message, notify the recipient, or forward it to a third party, perhaps without the user’s knowledge.

While the messaging system would still technically remain intact since there was no interception of an encrypted message, client-side scanning challenges user privacy and system security.

Portnoy said that she preferred the term “secure messaging” to refer to the situation where only the sender and her intended recipient could read messages or otherwise analyze their contents.

Other perspectives stressed the possibility of collaboration between encryption researchers and law enforcement

Not all agreed that the conflict between security and privacy was irreconcilable. Klon Kitchen, director of the Center for Technology Policy at the Heritage Foundation, said he liked the way Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency, framed the issue. We can’t allow ourselves to think about this as a choice between security and speech.

Kitchen emphasized that America needs both encryption and security moving forward, and that there needs to be a level of good faith and prudence between the government and the security research community.

He also stressed that “in a modern world, securing nations means securing networks,” and as nations, we cannot operate independently of each other.

Nick Sullivan, head of research at Cloudflare, Inc. addressed the difficulty of creating systems and policies that work for all parties—consumers, industry groups, and the government. He cited the rapid deployment of https as an example of getting mass adoption of encrypted systems.

From a consumer perspective, with so many interfaces that seem to have nothing in common about policy implementation, it can be difficult to know how to navigate these issues, not to mention difficult to audit the platform’s policies, said Sullivan.

When asked what he felt the key points the public should know were, he said it makes the most sense to increase the incentive for groups developing secure technologies. He also suggested bringing the community together to standardize and pick one way to do a security feature, similar to how Signal is used in both WhatsApp and iMessage.

Hannah Quay-de la Vallee, senior technologist at the Center for Democracy & Technology, moderated this session.


CES 2023: Consumers Need to Understand Personal Cybersecurity, Says White House Cyber Official

Consumers must better understand how to weigh risks and protect themselves in the digital world, said Camille Stewart Gloster.



Photo of John Mitchell, Tobin Richardson, Amit Elazari, and Camille Stewart Gloster (left to right)

LAS VEGAS, January 7, 2023 – In addition to building a more robust cybersecurity workforce, policymakers should consider consumer education, said Camille Stewart Gloster, deputy national cyber director for technology and ecosystem for the White House, speaking Saturday at the Consumer Electronics Show.

CES 2023 has featured numerous discussions of cybersecurity in sectors ranging from transportation to Internet of Things home devices. On Thursday, an official from the Department of Homeland Security argued that manufactures should design and pre-configure devices to be secure, thus reducing the security burden on consumers.

For their own protection, consumers must better understand how to weigh risks and protect themselves in the digital world, Stewart Gloster said Saturday. “The sooner that people understand that their physical security and digital security are inextricably linked the better,” she argued. According to the panel’s moderator, Consumer Technology Association senior manager for government affairs John Mitchell, 82 percent of data breaches in 2021 involved “the human element, stolen credentials, phishing, misuse.”

Stewart Gloster’s team is working on a national cyber-workforce and education strategy, she said, which will address the federal cyber workforce, the national cyber workforce, cyber education, and “digital safety awareness.”

Stewart Gloster said workforce initiatives should promote the participation of “people of a diverse set of backgrounds who are highly skilled and multidisciplinary who can take a look at the problem space, who can apply their lived experiences, apply the things they’ve observed, apply their academic backgrounds to a challenging and ever evolving landscape.”

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CES 2023: Cybersecurity for IoT Devices Should be Market-Driven

NIST’s cybersecurity guidelines for IoT prescribe desired outcomes, rather than specific and ‘brittle’ standards.



Michael Bergman (left) and Katerina Megas

LAS VEGAS, January 6, 2023 – Cybersecurity protocols for Internet of Things devices should be industry-driven, Katerina Megas, program manager of the Cybersecurity for Internet of Things Program at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said Friday at the Consumer Electronics Show 2023.

The popularization of IoT devices gives cyber-criminals increasing opportunities to breach networks, many say. Network-connected household devices – e.g., lightbulbs and home security devices – can be entry-points if security protocols are lacking. On CES panel on Thursday, a cybersecurity official at the Department of Homeland Security argued that manufacturers should design and preset devices to be safe, shifting much of the burden from the consumer.

“For a long-term, sustainable solution, the best approach really is for demand to be market driven,” she said, adding that NIST is “happy” to support the market when called on. To preserve flexibility, NIST’s cybersecurity guidelines for IoT manufacturers in general prescribed desired outcomes, rather than specific and “brittle” standards, Megas said.

“How you achieve those [outcomes] will vary depending on the maturity of your organization, the architecture of your product, perhaps preferences that you might have for you own internal processes,” she explained.

Megas said manufacturers, who well know their devices’ technical capabilities, often lack an understanding of how consumers actually use their devices. Megas said she has examined how to “help a manufacturer who has no insights into the final contextual use of this product, how can we help them…understand, ‘Here are the risks associated with my device.’”

At an American Enterprise Institute panel held in November, Megas endorsed an “ecosystem approach” to cybersecurity, arguing that network security is also indispensable.

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CES 2023: Railroad Industry Needs Cybersecurity Update

Shawn Smith advocated heavily tailored, industry-specific approaches that can address to the unique needs of the rail industry.



Photo of Shawn Smith, vice president of business development of Cylus

LAS VEGAS, January 5, 2023 – To keep pace with today’s technological innovations and cyberthreats, the railway industry must retool its cybersecurity defenses, said Shawn Smith, vice president of business development of rail cybersecurity company Cylus.

The railway industry is working to patch old vulnerabilities as well as the new ones that have been create by developing technologies, Smith told Broadband Breakfast at the Consumer Electronics Show on Thursday. The need for enhanced cybersecurity has been a recurring theme at the conference, as have the implications of the ever increasing number of devices and technologies now relying on connectivity.

“We’re really fast-tracking an operator’s ability to keep pace with the change in the digital environment that they’re operating in (and) the interconnectivity that they’re seeing,” Smith said, adding that his team works to provide “visibility, threat detection, and response capability to keep pace with the change in their organizations.”

Smith said that many of the large rail players have developed responses for some cybersecurity risks, but lack the automation and planning tools necessary to maximize their effectiveness. He advocated heavily tailored, industry-specific approaches that can address to the unique needs of the industry.

Governments and industry players worldwide have of late been on high alert for cyberthreats, particularly since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Railways, like other infrastructure, are potential targets for nefarious actors, Smith said.

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