Dutch Government Says ‘Nee’ to Encryption ‘Backdoors’

The Dutch government has nailed its colors to the mast by officially recognizing the importance of strong encryption and opposing any moves to introduce so-called ‘backdoors’ to help law enforcers.

The move comes as US officials continue to lobby hard the likes of Apple, Facebook and others to find a way in which the authorities could gain access to encrypted messaging platforms for certain investigations.

Meanwhile, the UK parliament is currently scrutinizing a bill which could green light those powers, as well as introduce sweeping surveillance measures.

However, in a five-page response to the Dutch House of Representatives published on Monday, the Ministry of Security and Justice claimed that a system allowing law enforcers access to such encrypted streams would also make digital systems vulnerable to “criminals, terrorists and foreign intelligence services.”

“This would have undesirable consequences for the security of information stored and communicated, and the integrity of ICT systems, which are increasingly of importance for the functioning of the society,” it added.

The document concluded:

“The government recognizes the importance of strong encryption for internet security, to support the protection of the privacy of citizens, for confidential communication of government and enterprises, and for the Dutch economy. Therefore, the government believes that it is not desirable at this time to take restrictive regulatory measures in respect of the development, availability and use of encryption within the Netherlands.”

Nithin Thomas, CEO of secure comms firm SQR Systems, argued that other governments should follow the lead of the Dutch.

“Rather than pursuing any approach that would make current encryption technology less secure, we must ensure that the organizations and individuals that own the data are able to access and control it themselves,” he added.

“This would allow them to comply with legal needs during investigations and criminal proceedings without compromising security. This requires communications service providers to re-think their communications security architecture and corporate policy to enable them to deal with legal intercepts.”

Thales e-Security president, Cindy Provin, argued the Dutch government’s decision was a step in the right direction.

“Backdoors that provide access to law enforcement are great in theory but in reality have the potential to introduce huge vulnerabilities,” she added. 

“If it became known that such backdoors existed, as it surely would, the likelihood of this being exploited by hackers is unarguable."

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