End-to-End Encryption

Prelims level : Science & Technology Mains level : GS-III Science & Technology - Awareness in the fields of it, Space, Computers, Robotics, Nano-Technology, Bio-Technology, Pharma Sector & Health Science
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Why in News?

  • Apple, on December 07,2022 announced the introduction of end-to-end encryption for most of the data on iCloud by early 2023. 


  • Apple announced that it will be increasing the number of data points protected by end-to-end encryption on iCloud from 14 to 23 categories. 
  • The company claimed that with end-to-end encryption, user data will be protected even in case data is breached in the cloud. 
  • Similarly, Elon Musk, CEO of Twitter recently pushed for Twitter directing messaging’s (DMs) to be encrypted. 
  • Many popular messaging service providers use end-to-end encryption, including Facebook, WhatsApp and Zoom. 
  • Several government agencies are not happy with the recent development.
  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the lead federal agency for investigating cyber attacks and intrusions in the U.S  expressed concerns with the threat that end-to-end encryption and user-only access pose. 
  • The agency insisted they hinder its ability to protect Americans from cyber-attacks, violence against children, and terrorism

What is end-to-end encryption?

  • End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is a method of secure communication that prevents third parties from accessing data while it’s transferred from one end system or device to another.
  • It prevents third parties like cloud service providers, internet service providers (ISPs) and cybercriminals from accessing data while it is being transferred. 
  • End-to-end encryption uses an algorithm to convert plain text into an unintelligible format. Exclusively individuals having the decryption keys, which are only kept on endpoints and not with any other parties like service providers, can decode and read this format.
  • When sending corporate documents, financial information, legal documents, and private discussions, end-to-end encryption has long been employed. Additionally, it may be used to manage user authorization for access to stored data.
  • End-to-end encryption is used to secure communications in  instant messaging and also used to secure passwords, protect stored data and safeguard data on cloud storage.

Significance of End to End Encryption:

  • The total number of data breaches more than tripled between 2013 and 2021. 
  • According to Apple, data of 1.1 billion personal records were exposed in 2021 alone and that it is trying to address this rising threat by implementing end-to-end encryption.
  • Extra layer of protection would be valuable to targets of hacking attacks launched by well-funded groups. 
  • End-to-end encryption promotes data protection and prevents unauthorised access to personal data.
  • End-to-end encryption is also viewed as a technology that protects user data from government snooping, making it a desired feature by political opponents, journalists, and activists.

Government agencies standpoint:

  • Attempts by government agencies across the globe, in the past, to access encrypted data hosted and stored by tech companies have met with strong resistance.
  • Encrypted messages can be used by terrorists and other non-state elements that can threaten sovereignty and integrity of nation.
  • In 2019, the U. S., the U. K., and Australia planned to pressure Facebook to create a backdoor into its encrypted messaging apps to allow governments to access the contents of private communications.
  • In 2018, Australia passed legislation that would force tech companies and service providers to build capabilities allowing law enforcement secret access to messages on platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook.
  • It becomes more challenging to censor social media trolls, hate speech, and child pornography. End-to-end encryption does not protect metadata, which includes information like when a file was created, the date when a message is sent and the endpoints between which data was shared.
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