In the past few years, cyber security has burst onto the national news scene, with shocking stories of huge breaches, security blunders in political campaigns, and an array of other troubling and dangerous revelations related to computer systems. Oftentimes, these stories are jam-packed with jargon, techie language and things that the average reader won't have a substantial understanding of. One thing talked about often is encryption, a security protocol that ensures that data is only accessible by authorized parties who have the appropriate keys. Strong encryption is essential for protecting mission-critical data, personally identifiable information (PII, such as social security numbers) or banking and financial from both hackers and accidental exposure.
Another related term that is brought up often is End-To-End Encryption, which is similar in nature. It protects data and ensures that it's only accessible by the intended parties, but it also means that the data is stored in that encrypted format when sent to your destination. End-to-end encryption is extremely valuable for preserving security in internet communications, and is very effective at preventing data breach and exposure for information in transit. Of course, if it keeps the bad guys out, it also means that the good guys can't get in either. As a result, many governments are pushing for developers to create special "back doors", which are openings or holes in the encryption, to allow them access to whatever data is being pushed through the tunnel. The justifications for this are numerous, mostly due to the fact that encryption makes the job of law enforcement officers and national security agencies more difficult because they are less able to intercept and read data from the bad guys.
On the surface, it sounds like a backdoor for national security or law enforcement purposes is a no-brainer, but it's not quite so clear cut. Generally, if there's a security hole anywhere, then it's accessible by anyone who has the know-how. That means that, if tech companies start introducing backdoors or are compelled to open up their encryption algorithms to governments, then the chances of a cybercriminal gaining access to the data that would otherwise be protected has risen exponentially. It's a situation with no right answer and no perfect solution, and it remains to be seen how it will play out.
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