FBI Calls for Crypto Cracking Law to Snoop on ISIS Suspects

A senior FBI anti-terrorism official has repeated the agency’s strong opposition to encrypted communications and called for new legislation forcing services providers to offer access to social sites and internet comms on demand.

Michael Steinbach, assistant director of the Feds’ counter-terrorism division, told the House Homeland Security Committee this week that pro-ISIS groups have been adept at using social media to spread their message.

He said:

"As a communication medium, social media is a critical tool for terror groups to exploit. One recent example occurred last week. An individual was arrested for providing material support to ISIL by facilitating an associate’s travel to Syria to join ISIL. The arrested individual had multiple connections, via a social media networking site, with other like-minded individuals.”

Steinbach added that “changing forms of internet communication are quickly outpacing laws and technology designed to allow for the lawful intercept of communication content.”

He claimed:

“This real and growing gap the FBI refers to as Going Dark is the source of continuing focus for the FBI, it must be urgently addressed as the risks associated with Going Dark are grave both in traditional criminal matters as well as in national security matters. We are striving to ensure appropriate, lawful collection remains available.”

Although traditional telephone companies are required by law to provide access to communications when asked by law enforcers, this doesn’t extend to internet comms providers, he argued.

“As a result, such services are developed and deployed without any ability for law enforcement to collect information critical to criminal and national security investigations and prosecutions,” said Steinbach.

Although not mentioned in the official transcript of his speech to the committee, Steinbach called for a new law to ensure that the Feds can demand access to internet comms if they manage to get a court order on a particular individual.

“We’re not talking about large-scale surveillance techniques,” he said, according to IDG News. “We’re not looking at going through a backdoor or being nefarious; we’re talking about going to the company and asking for their assistance.”

It’s unclear how this would work in practice, but the argument against providing access to encrypted communications is that cyber-criminals would eventually acquire the same means to crack the crypto, putting businesses and individuals at risk.

What’s Hot on Infosecurity Magazine?