National Security Agency Director Adm. Mike Rogers said Thursday that “encryption is foundational to the future,” and arguing about it is a waste of time.
Speaking to the Atlantic Council, a Washington, D.C., think tank, Rogers stressed that the cybersecurity battles the U.S. is destined to fight call for more widespread use of encryption, not less. “What you saw at OPM, you’re going to see a whole lot more of,” he said, referring to the massive hack of the Office of Personnel Management involving the personal data about 20 million people who have gotten background checks.
“So spending time arguing about ‘hey, encryption is bad and we ought to do away with it’ … that’s a waste of time to me,” he said, shaking his head.
“So what we’ve got to ask ourselves is, with that foundation, what’s the best way for us to deal with it? And how do we meet those very legitimate concerns from multiple perspectives?”
Other government officials — most notably FBI Director James Comey — have been crusading for a way that law enforcement can get access to encrypted data.
But technologists pretty much universally agree that creating some sort of special third-party access would weaken encryption to the point that it would threaten every internet transaction we make, from online banking to filling out our health records to emailing our friends and significant others. A hole in encryption for special FBI access would be a hole that criminals could sneak through, too.