Technology

Paris Attacks Heat Up Debate On WhatsApp, iMessage Encryption

Messaging services like WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage have once again become an issue of debate following deadly terror attacks in Paris that claimed at least 132 lives and left almost 400 injured. Though there are no confirmed reports, rumors suggest that the ISIS attackers might have used encrypted messaging tools like WhatsApp to communicate.

Paris Attacks Heat Up Debate On WhatsApp, iMessage Encryption

PlayStation 4 is more secure than WhatsApp

Meanwhile, intelligence agencies in Belgium claimed that ISIS was using PlayStation 4 to recruit because it is much more secure than WhatsApp. Belgian Minister of Home Affairs, Jan Jambon, said intelligence agencies have identified networks that use gaming consoles as a recruitment channel. The attacks have reopened the debate over whether tech companies should build “backdoors” in their encrypted systems to let the government agencies access data.

The British government has called for its surveillance legislation, the Investigatory Powers Bill, to be pushed through “as soon as possible” instead of waiting for the original deadline of 2016 end. The bill would force Internet companies to store information on their users’ browsing habits for at least a year. It also includes clauses that would allow government agencies to force Internet companies to break their encryption, which may lead to the ban of WhatsApp and iMessage in their current form.

Outcome of the debate may be different this time

WhatsApp, iMessage and many other messaging tools now use end-to-end encryption technology, which has worried the members of intelligence and law enforcement. And they are actively using the occasion of Paris attacks to demand restrictions on the technology. Law enforcement officials said encryption hampers their ability to track and neutralize plots like the France attacks.

Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell said the outcome of the debate will likely be different this time in the backdrop of Paris attacks. Ever since Edward Snowden disclosed federal spying, technology companies have stepped up the security of their platforms in order to reassure their users. Obama administration is still pushing companies to build “backdoors” to let investigators access into otherwise locked-up devices. Earlier this month, Apple CEO Tim Cook said if there is a backdoor, cyber criminals may also exploit it.