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How the ­.s. Fights Encryption--and Also Helps Develop It

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 Nathan Freitas works on ChatSecure at his home office in Boston, Mass. ENLARGE Nathan Freitas works on ChatSecure at his home office in Boston, MA.

Nathan Freitas and colleagues created a unified encryption app by combining Gibberbot with ChatSecure.

Credit: Shiho Fukada/The Wall Street Journal

Some U.S. government agencies are financing the development of encryption technologies to protect communications even as others seek to circumvent them in the interests of national security.

Within the government "there are clearly tensions, and those reflect institutional perspectives, the same as personal perspectives," notes former Pentagon official Ryan Henry. "Whether you prioritize security or you prioritize freedom--institutionally, the government is split along those lines."

In recent years, the government has made inroads into instant-messaging encryption to better protect sensitive messages from enemy interception, one example being the Open Technology Fund launched through a congressional allocation to the Broadcasting Board of Governors. The fund has underwritten innovations such as Gibberbot, which enables two people to communicate securely via encrypted text messages. Gibberbot was later combined into ChatSecure, a unified encryption app for Apple iPhones, which eventually was adopted by jihadists to secure their own communications.

Because many new smartphones have embedded encryption, the U.S. Justice Department is pressing Apple to give the Federal Bureau of Investigation access to the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino, CA, terrorists, which Apple has vowed to fight. 

According to officials, the Broadcasting Board of Governors is adopting a new policy designed to prevent wrongdoers from using such tools.

From The Wall Street Journal
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Abstracts Copyright © 2016 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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