Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


01:10 PM
Kennet Westby
Kennet Westby

Privacy Debate: Apple & Google Today; AWS or Azure Tomorrow?

Why the recent fight over mobile phone security and encryption is moving to the cloud.

The history of collaboration between government and the tech industry in the name of national security has ebbed and flowed for decades. From tapping copper telephone lines to bypassing the passcode on a mobile phone, the next frontier in the privacy/encryption debate will be over apps and cloud-based storage. Just as innovation has advanced the nature of how we communicate and collaborate, tech companies outside of telecom and mobile need to start paying attention to these developments, specifically with respect to cloud service providers like Amazon.

The concept of using encryption in a broad federated environment that protects data from the bad guys but still provides decryption capabilities for authorized stake holders including government participants are not new concepts. The financial and payments industries have had to manage these programs for years. Most of those organizations would not characterize the decryption methods implemented as a back door or weakened security as Apple has. The new challenge is how or whether applying these methods in new environments and platforms that affect an individual’s or private organization’s right to privacy is the best approach. There is a litany of potential unintended consequences. A major one could be a significant government interference on the free market competitiveness of technology companies.

As the matters surrounding Apple and Google continue to unfold, new information around law enforcement inquiries will come to light. The FBI’s fight against Apple has faded from mainstream media headlines for now, but ambiguities in the law have yet to be resolved in the United States. That means we can expect to see a greater discussion around amending privacy laws to address the handling of mobile devices and applications. In fact, a draft bill from Senators Dianne Feinstein and Richard Burr leaked last week is focused directly at providing the government legal ground to require device and cloud technology providers to enable government’s access to encrypted data.

Gain insight into the latest threats and emerging best practices for managing them. Attend the Security Track at Interop Las Vegas, May 2-6. Register now!

These matters are further advanced in Europe, with the French National Assembly recently considering an amendment to its counterterrorism bill that actively enforces decryption with increased penalties to private companies and their executives who do not design their own encryption. It wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to see such measures gain popularity back in the U.S., as lawmakers scramble to find a means to a larger policy solution.

The Board is listening

This creates a prescient reminder for board members and CISOs alike. A 2015 survey by the New York Stock Exchange, for example, found that more than 80 percent of public company board members are discussing cybersecurity at most or all of their respective boardroom meetings.

And yet, a wider public discussion of the issues has, largely, been lacking. Perhaps that’s borne out of procrastination. But what’s clear is that developing a privacy framework that satisfies as many concerns as possible should be a top-of-list agenda item. For the protection of their business model, and customers, mobile platform developers and cloud service providers need to be at the table during these discussions to ensure that laws do not provide government agencies too much leeway while also living up to their civic duty to not undermine public safety.

Because lawmakers have been slow to adapt to the pace of technology, criminal investigators have sought to manipulate centuries-old legal precedents as a means of recovering what they consider critical information in the wake of a terror or criminal attack. Solutions that are secure but which also promote privacy are essential. However, this can only be achieved through a proactive and cooperative approach. Can the security industry, working with law enforcement, curtail the next generation of legal challenges, ensuring that Amazon or Microsoft doesn’t become the next Apple? That’s an open question with the future, much like the potential legal challenges to come, very much up in the clouds.

Related Content:


Kennet Westby is a founding partner of Coalfire and serves as its president and chief security strategist. Mr. Westby has over 20 years of leadership experience in IT security, IT controls design and implementations. Mr. Westby provides cyber risk advisory to some of the ... View Full Bio

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
4/20/2016 | 6:36:47 PM
Cloud providers have already lost tens of billions of dollars since the Snowden revelations.  If this bill gets passed, expect more severe economic losses and more offshoring.
Manchester United Suffers Cyberattack
Dark Reading Staff 11/23/2020
As 'Anywhere Work' Evolves, Security Will Be Key Challenge
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  11/23/2020
Cloud Security Startup Lightspin Emerges From Stealth
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  11/24/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win an Amazon Gift Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
2021 Top Enterprise IT Trends
We've identified the key trends that are poised to impact the IT landscape in 2021. Find out why they're important and how they will affect you today!
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
PUBLISHED: 2020-11-30
SQL injection vulnerability in request.cgi in Synology SafeAccess before 1.2.3-0234 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary SQL commands via the domain parameter.
PUBLISHED: 2020-11-30
Multiple cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerabilities in Synology SafeAccess before 1.2.3-0234 allow remote attackers to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via the (1) domain or (2) profile parameter.
PUBLISHED: 2020-11-30
An issue was discovered on Fujitsu Eternus Storage DX200 S4 devices through 2020-11-25. After logging into the portal as a root user (using any web browser), the portal can be accessed with root privileges when the URI cgi-bin/csp?cspid=&csppage=cgi_PgOverview&csplang=en is visit...
PUBLISHED: 2020-11-30
hw/usb/hcd-ohci.c in QEMU 5.0.0 has a stack-based buffer over-read via values obtained from the host controller driver.
PUBLISHED: 2020-11-29
An issue was discovered on V-SOL V1600D V2.03.69 and V2.03.57, V1600D4L V1.01.49, V1600D-MINI V1.01.48, V1600G1 V2.0.7 and V1.9.7, and V1600G2 V1.1.4 OLT devices. It is possible to elevate the privilege of a CLI user (to full administrative access) by using the password [email protected]#y$z%x6x7q8c9z) for the e...