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ENISA : The importance of cryptography for the digital society

December 2016 by ENISA

Following the Council meeting on 8th and 9th December 2016 in Brussels, ENISA’s paper gives an overview into aspects around the current debate on encryption, while highlighting the Agency’s key messages and views on the topic.

Within the context of proposals to weakening encryption to facilitate the work of law enforcement, ENISA outlines in seven key messages, the challenges which result from such an act, lowering trust in online services and the smooth implementation of the Digital Dingle Market and EU industry. In the paper it is identified that weakening encryption can affect other aspects of cryptology, and a cost benefit analysis should be deployed prior to any legislation put forward.

ENISA sees that:

 The use of backdoors in cryptography is not a solution, as existing legitimate users are put at risk by the very existence of backdoors.
 Backdoors do not address the challenge of accessing of decrypting material, because criminals can already develop and use their own cryptographic tools. Furthermore, new technologies are now being deployed making lawful interception in a timely manner very difficult.
 Judicial oversight may not be a perfect solution; as different interpretations of the legislation may occur.
 Law enforcement solutions need to be identified without the use of backdoors and key escrow. It is very difficult to restrict technical innovation using legislation.
 History has shown that technology beats legislation, and criminals are best placed to capitalise on this opportunity.
 The perception that backdoors and key escrow exist, can potentially affect and undermine the aspirations for a fully embraced Digital Society in Europe.
 History has shown that legal controls are not always successful, and may harm and inhibit innovation, as seen with previous US experience.

ENISA collaborates closely with Europol, with the development of an expert working group on the topic, discussing on technical options to meet the needs of law enforcement while advocating the need to maintain strong encryption.

ENISA’s latest opinion paper is available online

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