Human rights protection in cyberspace is a very delicate task where civil liberties and national security requirements are required to be reconciled. As on date the e-surveillance desires of various national government is prevailing upon protection of civil liberties in cyberspace. For instance, FinFisher is the new face of global electronic spying, e-surveillance and eavesdropping.
At the national level as well e-surveillance and telephone tapping is in full swing. We have no dedicated e-surveillance and telephone tapping laws in India. Surprisingly, e-surveillance in India is not performed in a well defined and necessity based manner.
Similarly, cell site data location laws in India are missing and cell site location based e-surveillance in India is not regulated by a dedicated law in this regard. On the contrary, the central monitoring system (CMS) for telephone tapping in India is not governed by any parliamentary oversight.
The encryption laws in India are also absent. India government has been using various rules and guidelines to control use of encryption in India. The present limit of encryption is set to 40 bits that is ridiculously low. The proposed encryption policy of India plans to increase the encryption strength from 40 bits to 128 Bits. The encryption policy of India is needed as soon as possible.
This practically means that as on date use of encryption beyond 40 bits is illegal. In these circumstances when rights are outlawed only outlaws will have rights. We need self defence in Indian cyberspace that can protect our valuable civil liberties in India. The proactive self defense in Indian cyberspace is need of the hour if the state denies its citizens even the most basic civil liberties like data protection and privacy rights. Of course, there is a limit when the self defence in cyberspace ceases to exist and its continuance may be a punishable offence.
Media reports have indicated that Silent Circle has launched a wonderful product that can encrypt all of the calls, texts, and attachments. The best part of this process is that they are encrypted in such a way that only you and the person you are talking to can decrypt them. Neither government nor the company can decrypt such communications. The application developed by Silent Circle can be used on a smart phone, tablet or computer.
All the users need to do is downloading of the commercial application and all traffic is handled by the company’s own servers. Encryption keys are set up on each device using the application and are then discarded once the message has been completed, so that they cannot be manipulated. To further protect against wiretapping, the company’s servers that handle traffic are located in Canada and Switzerland, with an Asian location to be decided.
The application is a commercial extension of the wonderful and freely available product known as Pretty Good Privacy developed by Phil Zimmermann in 1991. He was also investigated by the US government for munitions export without a license though the charges were finally dropped.
Governments around the world must understand that the benefits of encryption are far greater than the threat. The Blackberry encryption fiasco is a classic example of governments around the world feeling threatened by encrypted communications.
Meanwhile, Silent Circle has put its source code up on Github for analysis by the security community. This would bring more effective and robust product on the one hand and minimum chances of bugs and backdoors on the other.
Silent Circle has also hired on contract a private attorney who used to be terrorism prosecutor. She advises it and has been its envoy to Congress and other places. Such issues are much on the mind of legislators of late. Intelligence agencies are pushing for an extension of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) to require an automatic backdoor into communications software of this type. A legislative push in the area is expected later this year. Similarly, plan to expand the scope of the computer fraud and abuse act 2013 of US is in pipeline.
In these circumstances, the product of Silent Circle is a saviour of the civil liberties especially privacy rights that are continuously targeted by the law enforcement and intelligence agencies world over.