Wickr founder details FBI request for backdoor

Jan 10, 2014
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Wickr founder details FBI request for backdoor

In December, it was reported that security firm RSA -- according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden -- was paid millions by the NSA to put a back door into its encryption products. A couple days later, the company denied having a secret contract with the government agency, and said that it never knowingly put a back door in its offerings. That didn't stop some companies from gravitating away from RSA, however, and one such company was Wickr. The company's founder, Nico Sell, announced this change at an RSA Security Conference, during which she made it clear her company would not have a back door and that users' security was important. Immediately after, an FBI agent approached her with a request -- to add a backdoor on behalf of the agency.

Wickr is a self-destructing message service akin to Snapchat, and it's company tagline is "Leave No Trace". The company touts the use of military-grade encryption for all video, picture, audio, and text messages, with secure file-shredding features for users and the ability to control who, where, and for how long one's own messages are available. Security, obviously, is the company's biggest point of focus.

According to Sell, immediately after exiting the stage at the conference where she detailed the service's security elements, an FBI agent casually approached her with a request that her company introduce a backdoor into the service that would give the FBI access to users' messages. The approach was said to be casual, something Sell states is apparently how such approaches are commonly done. "Always casual, testing, because most people would say yes."

Reportedly, Sell's response was an ear-full for the agent on the Constitution, a bit about George Washington, and followed up with a request for details on his part. Said Sell, "I asked if he had official paperwork for me, if this was an official request, who his boss was. He backed down very quickly." Sell has suggested the NSA revert to a surveillance model that involved the targeting of individuals rather than the mass surveillance of communications. "I'm not against helping law enforcement, but the most important thing to me is protecting my friends and family the best way I know how. There are plenty of ways to track people without trampling human rights."

SOURCE: PC Magazine


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