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MconneX Webcast

Cindy Cohn, Legal Director and General Counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, talks about how we all live in an increasingly networked world, and one of the preconditions of that world has to be basic computer security—freedom to use strong technologies that are fully trustworthy. Ensuring your ability to have real security and privacy online was one of EFF’s earliest goals and protecting your ability to use strong encryption was one of our first victories. The Clipper Chip proposal, that sought to mandate government-backdoored encryption, was defeated in the late 1990s and the encryption export regulations that had stymied growth of the science were rolled back shortly thereafter. And we thought the matter was settled: the government had no business sabotaging the security of digital devices or communications.

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[Snowden] started a vital conversation about what our government is doing, and the need to bring some boundaries to an agency that has to be reined in.

More About the Lecture

That’s why the revelations last fall that the NSA was actively attacking the security systems we all rely on was so shocking and, frankly, angering. Having lost its efforts to make us less safe in Congress, in the public debate, and in the courts, the NSA simply thumbed its nose at our democratic mechanisms and proceeded to sabotage our security anyway—in secret. By weakening encryption, the NSA allows others to more easily break it. By installing backdoors and other vulnerabilities in systems, the NSA exposes them to other malicious hackers—whether they are foreign governments or criminals. And the reported complicity of the company RSA, for a $10 million payout, has outraged the security community. As security expert Bruce Schneier explained, “It’s sheer folly to believe that only the NSA can exploit the vulnerabilities they create.”

Cohn will discuss the history of the first fight to protect strong encryption. what we know about the second one, and discuss, hopefully with audience input, where we go from here.

About the Speaker

Cindy Cohn is the Legal Director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation as well as its General Counsel. She is responsible for overseeing the EFF's overall legal strategy and supervising EFF's fourteen staff attorneys. Ms. Cohn first became involved with the EFF in 1993, when the EFF asked her to serve as the outside lead attorney in Bernstein v. Dept. of Justice, the successful First Amendment challenge to the U.S. export restrictions on cryptography. Outside the Courts, Ms. Cohn has testified before Congress, been featured in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere for her work on digital rights and has traveled onto the Internet with Stephen Colbert.

Sponsored Lecture: Part of the CSE Distinguished Lecture series by the Computer Science and Engineering department. Webcast sponsored by MconneX. Contact Sandra Hines at MconneXion@umich.edu with questions about webcasting.