I love history, it was one of the few subjects I paid attention to in my early years at school. One of the things about history that fascinates me is how we as a human race react to different events. As an example, during World War II and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were put into ‘relocation camps’ by order of President Roosevelt. Stupid thought process and even dumber decision. Another World War II item I always thought was interesting was the Enigma. If you are not familiar with Enigma it was a cypher (encryption) device invented by a German engineer named Arthur Scherbius. The German Army started using the device early in World War II to encrypt their messages and had the British not cracked the code in 1940, War World II could have turned out much differently. According to General Eisenhower, the cracking of the Enigma code was “decisive” in the Allies achieving victory.
Recently my cybersecurity expert friend, Greg Scasny, and I discussed the Apple versus FBI question that was in the news a couple of weeks ago (it appears as I type that the FBI has decided it doesn’t need Apple’s help after all…hmmmm). Being an ex-government guy I was leaning toward the FBI point of view about national security and Greg was squarely on the side of Apple (check out our podcast on the subject if you get a chance).
Then yesterday there was a terrorist bombing in Belgium and many people lost their lives or were injured. While watching the news one theme kept running through the reports, in today’s world ‘terrorists can communicate securely and easily with little chance of detection’. It came to me that companies like Apple provide ways to encrypt communications much like the Enigma did back in the early part of the 20th century, of course with a slight difference.
Historically governments had to spend large sums of money on encryption research, development, and implementation. However, today terrorists spend nothing to receive the same advantage on their chosen communication devices. If you don’t have a background in such things it may not seem vitally important, but exactly like the military, terrorist organizations have a structure that requires communication for command and control. If they are unable to communicate securely and have to resort to ‘open’ communication their operations are more likely to be thwarted. Translation; less bombs blowing up in public places and therefore we are safer.
If you were reading this hoping to find the answer, I don’t have it. Companies have every right to build products and sell them without worrying about governments telling them to give away keys or secrets. Of course we as citizens also have every right to walk down the street without fear of being blown up. I guess you could say it’s an enigma.
je suis bruxelles