Passing Thoughts on Passwords

Trust in government is eroding fast.

There are two conflicting forces battling it out on our national stage:

  1. We're reading more and more articles about hackers breaking into government computer systems and stealing citizens' personal data.
  2. Technology companies like Google and Apple are offering smart phones which cannot be read by anyone without your password.  The vendors can't read your data, not even under a court order.

Law enforcement agencies are unhappy about people being able to hide data.  They are arguing that encryption systems should have a "back door" so that the cops can read anything they need to read.  Security experts point out that the mere existence of a "back door" will make all encryption far less secure even if the bad guys don't hack into the government's computer and steal all the passwords.

Let's ponder recent government performance to see if it would be reasonable to trust the government with everybody's passwords.

How Government Handles Data

The New York Times reports that FBI mistakes led to serious consequences:

The man accused of killing nine people in a historically black church in South Carolina last month was able to buy the gun used in the attack because of a breakdown in the federal gun background check system, the F.B.I. said Friday.

With respect to protecting sensitive data, the Times said:

Katherine Archuleta, the director of the Office of Personnel Management, resigned under pressure on Friday, one day after the government revealed that two sweeping cyberintrusions at the agency had resulted in the theft of the personal information of more than 22 million people, including those who had applied for sensitive security clearances.

On the same day, the Times reported that a man who murdered a tourist shouldn't have been released:

The suspect, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, had been deported five times and spent 17 years in American jails when he was released by the San Francisco sheriff's office.  Federal immigration officials had asked to be notified of his release.

San Fransisco is a so-called "Sanctuary City" where police are forbidden to cooperate with Homeland Security in dealing with illegals when law enforcement doesn't know about any other issues with the person.  One would think that the Sheriff's office would have known that this person had spent time in jail, but no, they let him go.

This felon didn't have to rely on an FBI mess-up to buy a gun, he stole one from a federal agent's car.

Our government can't share data when it should, it can't protect important property, and it can't keep secure data secure.  I wouldn't trust them with the password to my gym locker, to say nothing of the rest of my private data., but can we trust the government in other areas?

Health and Nutrition

The government can't even cope competently with matters of health.  60 years ago, my parents trusted our government enough to enroll me in Dr. Salk's tests of the new polio vaccine.  I got badly sick from the shot, but I didn't get polio.  Now, many young parents tell me they don't believe what the government says about health.

  • President Ford told us that if we didn't get vaccinated against flu, there would be a lot of deaths.  Didn't happen.
  • Dr. Koop, President Reagan's Surgeon General, asserted that AIDS would break out into the heterosexual population.  It didn't - as he admitted not too long afterward.
  • Dr. Elders, President Clinton's Surgeon General, lied about a defective batch of condoms because she didn't want to undermine the credibility of her condom distribution program.  These incidents show that what we're told about AIDS is more political than medical.
  • For decades, the government told us to eat less fat, less eggs, and more carbs.  Come to find out, the data were cherry-picked and the recommended diet has led to obesity, an increase in diabetes, and many other diet-related problems.
  • Waiting lists are the VA went down once the government put in an incentive program.  Turned out that the bureaucrats lied to get fraudulent performance bonuses, and many vets died while waiting for treatment.  The perpetrators were allowed to resign instead of being fired.
  • Mr. Obama's multi-million dollar consultant, Prof. Jonathan Gruber, the genius from MIT, said that Obamacare had to be filled with lies because of the stupidity of the American voters.
  • When Ebola reached Texas, the CDC, which had said they had everything under control, had to upgrade their protection protocol when the first nurse got it.  They had to upgrade again when the second nurse came down with Ebola.

I can't blame my friends for not trusting anything the government says about health.  I most assuredly don't trust our government to handle my data properly.

How soon do you think ordinary people are going to want to start using encryption for their phone calls and emails?

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Society.
Reader Comments

I think there's a point coming, in the very near future, where phone and email will be encrypted beyond the point of snooping. The demand for these items is starting to spill over. Protocol experts are developing software that will make the process push-button easy on smartphones and allow secure/non-secure to work side by side. You can already be pretty secure right now if you use VOIP and HTTPS for all your calling/texting.

Incidentally, this also is why I don't believe in large government conspiracies. If the government had the slightest shred of competence, they wouldn't be showing their hand as often as they do - both the successes and failures. Governments of the past kept ahead by developing encryption before the private sector and passing it along. Government of the future will be playing catch-up and end up far behind.

July 13, 2015 3:14 PM
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