63% in favor of encryption backdoors to respond to national security threats

Vormetric did a survey on how Americans view “backdoor” access by government entities to the encrypted data of private businesses. Ninety-one percent recognized that there were risks to encryption backdoors, but also felt that it is justified in some circumstances.

Encryption is one of the most effective ways to achieve data security – especially when combined with access controls and data access monitoring. Organizations’ use of encryption directly reduces their risk of exposure to data breaches and theft. Enterprises recognize this; as shown by the results of another recent survey by IANS, 84% of businesses are considering encrypting all sensitive data. But adding backdoors to encryption compromises the technology, and this has not gone unnoticed by the American public.

According to the survey respondents:

  • Data accessed through a backdoor could be abused by hackers (69%)
  • Data accessed through a “backdoor” could be abused by government entities (62%)
  • U.S. businesses could lose their competitive advantage (34%).

“Adding backdoors to encryption solutions has the potential to create additional threats from criminals and terrorists,” said Vormetric CSO Sol Cates. “Simple implementations are vulnerable to access keys being discovered or extorted and then exploited. Safer (but not completely safe) and more complex methods require so heavy an infrastructure burden as to be infeasible.”

In certain circumstances Americans are in favor of backdoor access. This may be due to the strong “pro backdoor” language coming from the White House and senior federal law enforcement officials. Respondents were in favor of backdoor access:

  • In response to a national security threat (63%)
  • As part of a federal investigation (39%)
  • As part of a state or local investigation (29%).

Recent headlines have revealed major tensions between government agencies and private businesses regarding the rights of government entities – including federal, state and local law enforcement – to access and use encrypted data for government investigations.

One of the most vocal proponents against end-to-end encryption is FBI Director James Comey, who has repeatedly stated encryption technology is leaving criminal investigators in the dark. The results also suggest that much of the population polled does not understand that opening backdoors to encryption also opens up backdoors for cyberterrorists.

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