Technology, Thoughts & Trinkets

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Canada’s New and Irresponsible Encryption Policy: How the Government of Canada’s New Policy Threatens Charter Rights, Cybersecurity, Economic Growth, and Foreign Policy

Photo by Marco Verch (CC BY 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/RjMXMP

The Government of Canada has historically opposed the calls of its western allies to undermine the encryption protocols and associated applications that secure Canadians’ communications and devices from criminal and illicit activities. In particular, over the past two years the Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale, has communicated to Canada’s Five Eyes allies that Canada will neither adopt or advance an irresponsible encryption policy that would compel private companies to deliberately inject weaknesses into cryptographic algorithms or the applications that facilitate encrypted communications. This year, however, the tide may have turned, with the Minister apparently deciding to adopt the very irresponsible encryption policy position he had previously steadfastly opposed. To be clear, should the Government of Canada, along with its allies, compel private companies to deliberately sabotage strong and robust encryption protocols and systems, then basic rights and freedoms, cybersecurity, economic development, and foreign policy goals will all be jeopardized.

This article begins by briefly outlining the history and recent developments in the Canadian government’s thinking about strong encryption. Next, the article showcases how government agencies have failed to produce reliable information which supports the Minister’s position that encryption is significantly contributing to public safety risks. After outlining the government’s deficient rationales for calling for the weakening of strong encryption, the article shifts to discuss the rights which are enabled and secured as private companies integrate strong encryption into their devices and services, as well as why deliberately weakening encryption will lead to a series of deeply problematic policy outcomes. The article concludes by summarizing why it is important that the Canadian government walk back from its newly adopted irresponsible encryption policy.

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Update to the SIGINT Summaries

As part of my ongoing research into the Edward Snowden documents, I have found and added an additional document to the Canadian SIGINT Summaries. The Summaries include downloadable copies of leaked Communications Security Establishment (CSE) documents (and those pertaining to CSE activities), along with summary, publication, and original source information. CSE is Canada’s foreign signals intelligence agency and has operated since the Second World War.

Documents were often produced by CSE’s closest partners which, collectively, form the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence network. This network includes the CSE, the National Security Agency (NSA), the Government Commsiunications Headquarters (GCHQ), Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), and Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB).

All of the documents are available for download from this website. Though I am hosting the documents they were all first published by another party. The new documents and their summaries are listed below. The full list of documents and their summary information is available on the Canadian SIGINT Summaries page.

This document came to my attention as part of analysis of NSA-Japanese signals intelligence cooperation. The Canadian-centric aspect of the document concerns the number of High Frequency Direction Finding sites that were, as of 2005, operated by Canada.

CROSSHAIR — Foreign Partners Filling HF/DF Gaps for the US

Summary: This brief article identifies the number of second-party High Frequency Direction Finding (HF/DF) resources, along with contributing third-parties, which collectively compose the CROSSHAIR network with US government assets. The CROSSHAIR covername refers to a project that consolidated all US Service Cryptologic Element (SCE) HF/DF resources and enables data operability with partners.

Canada possessed four sites at time of writing, Great Britain six, and Australia and New Zealand one each. Third-parties, including Austria, Denmark, Ethiopia, Hungary, Israel, India, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, and Taiwan, also shared with the NSA and, in some cases, directly with one another. The NSA recognizes, in this document, that without the third-party collaborators the NSA would lack a world-wide network for Direction Finding.

Document Published: April 24, 2017
Document Dated: February 25, 2005
Document Length: 1 pages
Associated Article: Japan Made Secret Deals With The NSA That Expanded Global Surveillance
Download Document: CROSSHAIR — Foreign Partners Filling HF/DF Gaps for the US
Classification: TOP SECRET//SI//TK//REL TO USA, AUS, CAN, GBR, NZL
Authoring Agency: NSA
Codenames: CROSSHAIR