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February 12, 2016updated 04 Sep 2016 10:19pm

70% of internet traffic to be encrypted as state agencies scramble to police internet

News: Research from Sandvine and Bruce Schneier reveals the huge growth in encryption.

By Alexander Sword

70 percent of global internet traffic is set to be encrypted in 2016, even as Governments scramble to clamp down on use of internet that they cannot control.

According to a report from Sandvine, some networks will see the share of encrypted traffic exceed 80 percent.

Apparently, Europe and Latin America already have two-thirds of their traffic encrypted through websites such as YouTube and Facebook.

North American fixed networks apparently have the lowest share of encrypted traffic compared to other areas of the world, although Sandvine notes that the move of Netflix towards encryption will alter this trend.

Currently, around 60 percent of mobile network traffic is encrypted, slightly behind other networks.

The research comes at a time when the future of encryption is somewhat unclear.

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The technique involves encoding traffic so that it can only be read by the authorised parties possessing the ‘key’ – a complex algorithm that the encoded data must be fed through to make any sense.

Governments are concerned that a channel exists that they cannot monitor under any circumstances, since some tech companies encrypt channels in such a way that even they cannot decipher it.

Over in the United States, a fierce debate is taking place over ‘backdoors’ to encryption, with interventions by high-level figures in Silicon Valley such as Apple CEO Tim Cook. These, under certain circumstances, would allow the tech companies to decrypt the traffic.

The Obama administration last year concluded that it would not ask Congress to pass legislation requiring back doors, but this has not prevented senior law-makers continuing to push for it.

In the UK, the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, published in November 2015, has been criticised for its lack of clarity on these ‘backdoors.’

Even if countries were to pass legislation at a national level requiring encryption, it is unclear whether this would have any effect.

Bruce Schneier, the CTO at Resilient Systems and a respected technology blogger, recently completed some research on the encrypted products available worldwide. He found that there are 619 entities selling encryption products, with 412 of these outside the US.

There are at least, Schneier found, 865 hardware or software products incorporating encryption from 55 countries.

Users would simply have to pick a product from abroad, which "offer a wide variety of secure applications – voice encryption, text message encryption, file encryption, network-traffic encryption, anonymous currency – providing the same levels of security as US products do today," according to Schneier.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales also questioned the efficacy of anti-encryption measures when he commented in October that state security agencies had "over-reached" in their approach to spying. He argued that encryption was not only wrong in principle but practically unworkable.

"It’s too late, Dave," Wales said, referring to the UK Prime Minister, adding that "not all governments are working in the right direction on this and it’s a little bit concerning and surprising."

 

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