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Ottawa funds creation of tool to crack passwords

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In Canada, law enforcement cannot force a person to provide a password. To get around this hurdle, Ottawa is offering $ 1 million to a private company that can develop a functional prototype who would be able to decipher them.

That’s a very bad idea, launches bluntly Nicolas Papernot, professor at the University of Toronto, who holds a chair in artificial intelligence at the Vector Institute.

If we manage to develop a tool that is capable of breaking data encryption, it will have very serious consequences for many computer systems., he explains. We cannot be sure that once such a tool exists, it is only used by the competent authorities.

I wouldn’t say it’s amazing. I would say it’s shocking. That’s a very bad idea.

A quote from Nicolas Papernot, holder of a chair in artificial intelligence at the Vector Institute
Computer servers.

Will the private company that will design the prototype keep some control over it? “It will definitely be something to watch out for,” says Kristen Thomasen.

Photo: iStock

The RCMP does not have the best record

The use of encryption technologies is a growing obstacle for police forces across the country, according to Sergeant Caroline Duval of the RCMP.

Increasingly, criminals are using sophisticated encryption systems to evade investigations or prevent investigators from legally accessing data captured during criminal investigations.

In this context, the use of a decryption tool may be valid, believes Kristen Thomasen, professor of robotics law and policy at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

However, Canada and its police forces do not have the best record in terms of restraint and enhancement of transparency in the use of tools based on artificial intelligence, she argues.

She recalls that, last year, privacy commissioners condemned the use of the Clearview AI facial recognition tool by various Canadian police forces, including the RCMP, citing mass surveillance and a clear violation of the privacy rights of Canadians.

Once a technology exists, it becomes more difficult to limit its use, says Kristen Thomasen. The temptation to use it in a wide variety of contexts is growing.

Is the game worth the candle?

What’s more, once created, this type of technology could fall into the hands of malicious people, fears Mathias Lecuyer, professor of computer science at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

: is its good use worth it in relation to the risks associated with it? I am not sure that the game is worth the candle. “,” Text “:” It is always the question with the development of this type of technology: is its good use worth it compared to the risks which are associated with it? I’m not sure it’s worth the effort. “}}”>This is always the question with the development of this type of technology: is its proper use worth it compared to the risks associated with it? I’m not sure it’s worth the effort.

Just because a tool can be developed doesn’t mean it should.

A quote from Mathias Lecuyer, Professor of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia

Several critical systems depend on encryption, especially in the medical, telecommunications or financial fields, says Nicolas Papernot.

The progress we are making in terms of computer security would be called into question and weakened if we developed tools intended to decipher data. It could backfire on the government itself.

Close-up of an eye under facial recognition technology.

Once a person is identified, the Clearview AI app lists all the public images that person appears on.

Photo: Getty images / iStock

A private approach that worries

Companies have until December 16 to submit their proposal to the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. In its offer, Ottawa notes that the companies selected000$ to improve their research and development activities “,” text “:” can receive up to $ 150,000 to improve their research and development activities “}}”>can receive up to $ 150,000 to improve their research and development activities, and could thenmillion dollars to develop a prototype “,” text “:” receive up to $ 1million to develop a prototype “}}”>receive up to $ 1 million to develop a prototype.

The Department of Innovation does not want to go into the number of Canadian companies that a similar competition may interest.

Nicolas Papernot assumes that they will not be very numerous, since it will be necessary to combine expertise in encryption and artificial intelligence,domains in very high demand “,” text “:” two domains in very high demand “}}”>two areas in very high demand. Difficult, in his opinion, to find good experts to do this kind of work.

A computer lock.

Encryption of data is important to freedom of expression, says Kristen Thomasen, because it allows people to share information with the knowledge that it will not be read by a third party.

Photo: AFP / Pixabay

The process itself deserves consideration, these experts believe. Will the private company that will design the selected prototype retain some control over it? It will definitely be something to watch out for , says Kristen Thomasen.

Questioned by /TurnedNews.com on how the government intends to ensure that the tool designed will not be used for malicious purposes, the Minister of Innovation relies on the RCMP.

In an email statement, federal police said: RCMP is governed by the Charter and subject to applicable legal processes. “,” text “:” The use of any investigative tool by the RCMP is governed by the Charter and subject to applicable legal processes. “}}”>The use of any survey tool by the RCMP is governed by the Charter and subject to applicable legal processes.

RCMP will follow the required processes […] to ensure compliance with Canadian law “,” text “:” If the research and development project is successful, the RCMP will follow the required processes […] in order to ensure compliance with Canadian law “}}”>If the research and development project is successful, the RCMP will follow the required processes […] to ensure compliance with Canadian law, assures Sergeant Duval.

However, the initiative raises a number of questions, acknowledges the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, which claims to be in communication with the RCMPto know more.

The Department of Public Security, which oversees the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, has not yet responded to questions sent to it by /TurnedNews.com.

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