According to arstechnica.com, the US government spends $11 billion and dedicates 35,000 people each year to a program “dedicated to encryption,” which includes cracking encryption. Most people would view this as a bad thing. There are issues like the right to privacy and whatnot. But the way I see it, this is actually good news for users of laptop encryption software like AlertBoot.
Encryption: Proof that It Works
Eleven billion dollars is not small potatoes. Let’s assume that 0.1% of it is dedicated towards cracking encryption. That means that $11 million is being used each year on cracking encryption alone (personally, I find the number to be too low. It’s probably much, much higher).
What this means to the average computer user is that, if they are looking to protect their data, tools like disk encryption (say, the AES-256 encryption from AlertBoot) are more than enough to secure their data. If you’re trying to hide something from the government, maybe you won’t be successful, as in this case. But, if you’re working in a hospital and are looking to ensure that patient files remain confidential, or you’re a lawyer and you want to ensure that your client data remains under wraps, encryption is an easy, effective, and cheap way to do it.
This is why most US states with data breach laws on their books will offer safe harbor if encryption is used to protect sensitive data. The reasoning extends to US federal laws as well as EU legislation, and basically to any country in the world that has data security and data privacy laws.
Bad news always follows good news, however. According to the same arstechnica.com report,
some cryptographers are growing increasingly concerned that breakthroughs in discrete mathematics could soon spawn a so-called cryptopocalypse that could undermine the security of core encryption algorithms…since there’s no mathematical proof that the theory isn’t possible, there’s no way to dismiss the possibility.
If this scenario does play out…well, it would be the end of the world as we know it. For one thing, encryption is what allows banking to occur. Not just online banking, but the flow of money from one bank to another, from a commercial bank to the federal reserve, international transfers, etc. Furthermore, the use of credit and debit cards requires encryption at some level.
In fact, encryption tends to affect our lives in some of the most unexpected ways. In a sense, they’re kind of like those “Made in China” tags: look close enough and there it is.
Of course, most experts doubt that a Crytpocalypse is imminent. As a non-expert, here are my two cents on the issue: if “there’s no mathematical proof that the theory isn’t possible” is the main reason for pushing the argument, you’re on the short side of the stick; it has something to do with trying to prove a negative, which is not impossible, but decidedly hard to do. Negative proofs that are not logical fallacies tend to be small in number, as I understand it.
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