Possible Government Demand for WhatsApp Backdoor
The New York Times is reporting that WhatsApp, and its parent company Facebook, may be headed to court over encrypted chat data that the FBI can’t decrypt.
This case is fundamentally different from the Apple iPhone case. In that case, the FBI is demanding that Apple create a hacking tool to exploit an already existing vulnerability in the iPhone 5c, because they want to get at stored data on a phone that they have in their possession. In the WhatsApp case, chat data is end-to-end encrypted, and there is nothing the company can do to assist the FBI in reading already encrypted messages. This case would be about forcing WhatsApp to make an engineering change in the security of its software to create a new vulnerability—one that they would be forced to push onto the user’s device to allow the FBI to eavesdrop on future communications. This is a much further reach for the FBI, but potentially a reasonable additional step if they win the Apple case.
And once the US demands this, other countries will demand it as well. Note that the government of Brazil has arrested a Facebook employee because WhatsApp is secure.
We live in scary times when our governments want us to reduce our own security.
EDITED TO ADD (3/15): More commentary.