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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
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Decrypting the
ENCRYPTION DEBATE

A Framework for Decision Makers

Committee on Law Enforcement and Intelligence Access
to Plaintext Information

Computer Science and Telecommunications Board

Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

A Consensus Study Report of

images

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
Washington, DC
www.nap.edu

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001

This activity was supported by award number 2015-3078 from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, award number 15-109219-000-HRS from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and award number CNS-1555610 from the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any organization or agency that provided support for the project.

International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-47153-4
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-47153-2
Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/25010

Additional copies of this publication are available for sale from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313; http://www.nap.edu.

Copyright 2018 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America

Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: https://doi.org/10.17266/25010.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
×

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The National Academy of Sciences was established in 1863 by an Act of Congress, signed by President Lincoln, as a private, nongovernmental institution to advise the nation on issues related to science and technology. Members are elected by their peers for outstanding contributions to research. Dr. Marcia McNutt is president.

The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to bring the practices of engineering to advising the nation. Members are elected by their peers for extraordinary contributions to engineering. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., is president.

The National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) was established in 1970 under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences to advise the nation on medical and health issues. Members are elected by their peers for distinguished contributions to medicine and health. Dr. Victor J. Dzau is president.

The three Academies work together as the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation and conduct other activities to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions. The National Academies also encourage education and research, recognize outstanding contributions to knowledge, and increase public understanding in matters of science, engineering, and medicine.

Learn more about the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine at www.nationalacademies.org.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
×

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Consensus Study Reports published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine document the evidence-based consensus on the study’s statement of task by an authoring committee of experts. Reports typically include findings, conclusions, and recommendations based on information gathered by the committee and the committee’s deliberations. Each report has been subjected to a rigorous and independent peer-review process and it represents the position of the National Academies on the statement of task.

Proceedings published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine chronicle the presentations and discussions at a workshop, symposium, or other event convened by the National Academies. The statements and opinions contained in proceedings are those of the participants and are not endorsed by other participants, the planning committee, or the National Academies.

For information about other products and activities of the National Academies, please visit www.nationalacademies.org/about/whatwedo.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
×

COMMITTEE ON LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ACCESS TO PLAINTEXT INFORMATION

FRED H. CATE, Indiana University, Chair

DAN BONEH, NAE,1 Stanford University

FREDERICK R. CHANG, NAE, Southern Methodist University

SCOTT CHARNEY, Microsoft Corp.

SHAFRIRA GOLDWASSER, NAS2/NAE, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

DAVID A. HOFFMAN, Intel Corporation

SENY KAMARA, Brown University

DAVID KRIS, Culper Partners, LLC

SUSAN LANDAU, Tufts University

STEVEN B. LIPNER, NAE, SAFECode

RICHARD LITTLEHALE, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

KATE MARTIN, Center for American Progress

HARVEY RISHIKOF, Cybersecurity Legal Task Force, American Bar Association

PETER J. WEINBERGER, Google, Inc.

Staff

JON EISENBERG, Study Director and Senior Director, Computer Science and Telecommunications Board

KATIRIA ORTIZ, Associate Program Officer

SHENAE BRADLEY, Administrative Assistant

JANKI PATEL, Senior Program Assistant

___________________

1 Member, National Academy of Engineering.

2 Member, National Academy of Sciences.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
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COMPUTER SCIENCE AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS BOARD

FARNAM JAHANIAN, Carnegie Mellon University, Chair

LUIZ ANDRE BARROSO, Google, Inc.

STEVEN BELLOVIN, Columbia University

ROBERT F. BRAMMER, Brammer Technology, LLC

EDWARD FRANK, Cloud Parity, Inc.

LAURA HAAS, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

MARK HOROWITZ, Stanford University

ERIC HORVITZ, Microsoft Research

VIJAY KUMAR, Univ. of Pennsylvania

BETH MYNATT, Georgia Institute of Technology

CRAIG PARTRIDGE, Raytheon BBN Technologies

DANIELA RUS, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

FRED SCHNEIDER, Cornell University

MARGO SELTZER, Harvard University

MOSHE VARDI, Rice University

KATHERINE YELICK, University of California, Berkeley

Staff

JON EISENBERG, Senior Director

LYNETTE I. MILLETT, Associate Director

SHENAE BRADLEY, Administrative Assistant

EMILY GRUMBLING, Program Officer

RENEE HAWKINS, Financial and Administrative Manager

KATIRIA ORTIZ, Associate Program Officer

JANKI PATEL, Senior Program Assistant

For more information on CSTB, see its Web site at http://www.cstb.org, write to CSTB at National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, 500 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001, call (202) 334-2605, or email the CSTB at cstb@nas.edu.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
×

Acknowledgment of Reviewers

This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.

We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report:

Kevin Bankston, Open Technology Institute,

Alvaro Bedoya, Georgetown University Law School,

James Emerson, iThreat Cyber Group,

Edward W. Felten, NAE,1 Princeton University,

Eric Grosse, EHG Flight, LLC,

Joseph Lorenzo Hall, Center for Democracy and Technology,

Susan Hennessey, Brookings Institution,

John C. (“Chris”) Inglis, U.S. Naval Academy,

Kenn Kern, New York County District Attorney’s Office,

___________________

1 Member, National Academy of Engineering.

Page viii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
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Butler W. Lampson, NAS2/NAE, Microsoft Corporation,

Josiah Landers, Rockland County, New York, District Attorney’s Office,

Bruce W. McConnell, EastWest Institute,

Deirdre K. Mulligan, University of California, Berkeley,

Ronald L. Rivest, NAS/NAE, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,

Peter Swire, Georgia Institute of Technology, and

Marcus C. Thomas, Subsentio, LLC.

Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations of this report nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Robert F. Sproull, NAE, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.

___________________

2 Member, National Academy of Sciences.

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
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Preface

Government access to the plaintext of encrypted communications and stored data presents difficult, important, and controversial issues that reveal conflicting values within the government and society at large. The debate over efforts to ensure that access is very polarized. Critics of government access, even as they acknowledge the importance of effective law enforcement, cite legal and practical objections, including risks to security, privacy and civil liberties, and U.S. commercial interests. Government officials acknowledge the value of encryption to protect privacy and confidential information but also express the need to be able to access information relevant to investigations when properly authorized.

To address these issues (Box P.1), the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine appointed the Committee on Law Enforcement and Intelligence Access to Plaintext Information (biosketches in Appendix A). It met four times in person to receive briefings from government, industry, and academic experts (listed in Appendix B) and also used these meetings, supplemented by conference calls and email discussion, to deliberate and develop this report.

To better inform the policy debate and future decision making, this report reviews how encryption is used, including its applications to cybersecurity; its role in protecting privacy and civil liberties; the needs of law enforcement and the intelligence community for information; technical and policy options for accessing plaintext; and the international landscape.

Because the concerns expressed by law enforcement officials at the federal, state, and local levels have been more clearcut and less nuanced

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
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than the views offered by U.S. intelligence officials, who in contrast to law enforcement representatives have not vigorously advocated in public for exceptional access, this report not only gives greater attention to law enforcement needs but also discusses national security needs. The last chapter of the report provides a framework for evaluating policy or technical approaches for government access to plaintext. The committee intends that developing and debating answers to these questions will help illuminate the underlying issues and trade-offs and help guide future decisions about government access to plaintext.

Moreover, while it suspects there will always be disagreements over how to address the challenges presented by encryption, it is the committee’s hope that this report will facilitate a frank conversation, involving all parties, about those challenges and alternative approaches to addressing them. The process of creating this report at times was challenging and required members of the committee to develop a deeper understanding of perspectives with which they did not always agree. But the process was also illuminating, and the committee hopes that the common vocabulary and broad context provided by this report, as well as the analytical framework, will make future conversations easier, more productive, and more likely.

The committee would like to acknowledge the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the National Science Foundation for their generous support for this project and in particular Eli Sugarman (Hewlett Foundation), Eric Sears (MacArthur Foundation), and Jeremy Epstein (National Science

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
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Foundation) for their encouragement and support. It also thanks the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine staff who supported this project: study director Jon Eisenberg, associate program officer Katiria Ortiz, and administrative assistant Shenae Bradley.

Fred H. Cate, Chair
Committee on Law Enforcement and
Intelligence Access to Plaintext Information

Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
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Page xiii Cite
Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
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Suggested Citation:"Front Matter." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Decrypting the Encryption Debate: A Framework for Decision Makers. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25010.
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Encryption protects information stored on smartphones, laptops, and other devices - in some cases by default. Encrypted communications are provided by widely used computing devices and services - such as smartphones, laptops, and messaging applications - that are used by hundreds of millions of users. Individuals, organizations, and governments rely on encryption to counter threats from a wide range of actors, including unsophisticated and sophisticated criminals, foreign intelligence agencies, and repressive governments. Encryption on its own does not solve the challenge of providing effective security for data and systems, but it is an important tool.

At the same time, encryption is relied on by criminals to avoid investigation and prosecution, including criminals who may unknowingly benefit from default settings as well as those who deliberately use encryption. Thus, encryption complicates law enforcement and intelligence investigations. When communications are encrypted "end-to-end," intercepted messages cannot be understood. When a smartphone is locked and encrypted, the contents cannot be read if the phone is seized by investigators.

Decrypting the Encryption Debate reviews how encryption is used, including its applications to cybersecurity; its role in protecting privacy and civil liberties; the needs of law enforcement and the intelligence community for information; technical and policy options for accessing plaintext; and the international landscape. This book describes the context in which decisions about providing authorized government agencies access to the plaintext version of encrypted information would be made and identifies and characterizes possible mechanisms and alternative means of obtaining information.

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