During his Sunday evening speech about terrorism, President Barack Obama called on America’s tech companies to take up arms in the fight against ISIS.
“I will urge high-tech and law enforcement leaders to make it harder for terrorists to use technology to escape from justice,” he said.
Terrorists have been using encrypted tools to avoid surveillance and Obama’s vague call to arms might include encrypted technology.
WhatsApp and Telegram are apps that encrypt text. The Signal app encrypts phone calls. Wickr sends self-destructing messages. Even face-to-face video communications from Facetime are encrypted. The very same technology that allows everyday users to have private conversations with family and friends, is now being used to wage war by terrorists.
Telegram in specific shut down 78 ISIS run “channels,” however, the company can’t possibly hunt down every single encrypted peer-to-peer conversation being conducted by the group.
Police investigators are also finding that terrorists use encrypted devices, which means even when tracked down, government agents are forced to deal with two and three layers of encryption.
For a while, the Obama administration was asking Microsoft, Apple, and other big tech companies to install a backdoor into their products. The tech companies fought back against that request, noting that hackers could steal those keys and gain unfettered access to millions of devices.