[IP] more on FBI plans new Net-tapping push

Phil Karn karn at ka9q.net
Sun Jul 9 09:24:17 PDT 2006

David Farber wrote:

>But there's a piece missing.  Crypto controls of course!

This is of course possible, and it's a bit surprising that this other
shoe has not yet fallen so long after 9/11.

But consider that any push to regulate or restrict strong crypto would:

1. Draw widespread public attention to the fact that the government
cannot break it;

2. Be totally ineffectual since crypto is so widely available from so
many places in the world;

3. Go against the strongly stated public positions of many
conservative Republicans during the "crypto wars" of the mid 1990s,
when, coincidentally, Clinton was in office and pushing the Clipper

4. Be totally ignored by precisely those people whom the government
is supposedly most interested in targeting; and

5. Be mostly irrelevant to what the spooks actually do when they
vacuum up electronic communications, namely traffic analysis (who
talks to who, when, where and how much) rather than acquiring actual
content. Content takes too much effort to analyze (and possibly
translate), even when it's in the clear. Traffic analysis can be done
automatically on a huge scale, and it can be frighteningly effective.

As an aside, I note that not much attention has been paid to the
"where"  part of communications. Cell phones -- even when they're not
in calls -- make excellent physical tracking devices. Not even secure
end-to-end encryption can change that. It's inherent in how they work.

I have no actual information on this, but based on my knowledge of
the technology and ongoing revelations of the government's insatiable
appetite for data on non-citizens and citizens alike, I confidently
predict that the next big revelation in the ongoing saga of massive
government data-mining will involve mobile phone registrations. These
are the short "I'm here and ready for a call" data messages that all
mobile phones transmit every few minutes whenever they're on and
idle. Even without GPS for augmented E911 positioning, registrations
tell what cell sector you're in. These sectors can be quite small (a
few blocks) in densely populated areas. At the very least, they're
certainly sufficient to tell what country and city you're in.


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