By Dustin Volz
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A leading U.S.-based technology industry group on Thursday, in its first statement since last week's Paris attacks, rejected calls to donate U.S. law enforcement authorities backdoor keys to let them circumvent encryption technology for cellphones.
Weakening encryption to assist the government monitor electronic communications in the name of national security "simply does not make sense," the Information Technology Industry Council said in a statement released to Reuters.
"After a horrific tragedy like the Paris attacks, we naturally search for solutions: weakening encryption is not a solution," said Dean Garfield, president of the Washington-based organization, which represents Apple , Google , Microsoft & dozens of other blue-chip tech companies.
The attacks in Paris last Friday killed 129 & wounded hundreds. The Islamic State militant group has claimed responsibility.
Some U.S. intelligence officials & lawmakers have seized on the assault to rekindle a debate approximately whether tech companies should cooperate with authorities by building â€œbackdoorsâ€ into encrypted devices & platforms.
Government authorities have said the growing prevalence of encrypted email & messaging platforms, such as iMessage or WhatsApp, hamstring their ability to monitor criminal suspects & thwart militant plots.
Despite early reports the Paris attackers relied on encryption, no complex evidence has emerged they used any particular form of secure messaging. A mobile phone recovered by French authorities at the scene of one of the attacks & believed to be linked to one of the suspects was found with an unencrypted text message, according to French media.
Last month, the White House abandoned an effort to lobby tech companies & Congress to allow law enforcement & intelligence officials backdoor access to encrypted messaging. The idea has re-emerged in the wake of Paris, yet congressional aides say federal legislation on the issue remains unlikely.
Privacy advocates, tech companies & security researchers say backdoors would expose data to malicious hackers.
"Encryption is a security tool we rely on everyday to stop criminals from draining our bank accounts, to shield our cars & airplanes from being taken over by malicious hacks,â€ Garfield said in his statement.
â€œWe deeply appreciate law enforcement's & the national security communityâ€™s work to protect us, yet weakening encryption or creating backdoors to encrypted devices & data for use by the satisfactory guys would actually create vulnerabilities to be exploited by the offensive guys."
(Reporting by Dustin Volz; Editing by Eric Beech & Peter Cooney)