FBI Seeks $38 Million Infusion To Gather Advanced Encryption-Busting Tools

FBI San Diego Building

It's easier than ever to protect data online and elsewhere. Encryption is ubiquitous and while it's impossible to insure that your data well-secured from the likes of the government, there's no excuse for not taking important steps to increase your own personal protection as much as possible.

That latter is especially true when you consider the fact that the FBI has a seemingly unlimited amount of resources to "counter the threat" of encryption. Humorously, many people who use encryption aim to "counter the threat" of the FBI or other government agencies. And according to the agency's 2017 budget request, the FBI is seeking another $38.3 million (on top of $31 million already appropriated) to "develop and acquire tools for electronic device analysis, cryptanalytic capability, and forensic tools."

Nothing involved in the battle against encryption is going to be cheap. While it's not explicitly mentioned, some of the funds could be used to pay outsiders for the rights to certain information, and important exploits. $70 million, in round numbers, seems like a lot of money, but in this particular field it's likely relatively modest.

Edward Snowden
Whistleblower Edward Snowden feels encryption is hugely important for citizens.

According to the document, the FBI's biggest goal is to avoid "going dark," which means being unable to access information due to an encryption roadblock.

Despite the FBI's ambitions, modern encryption is extremely robust, and it should only get even stronger (and it will have to, to combat advancements in decryption technology). If you're not doing anything shady but still use strong encryption, it seems unlikely that you'd be targeted by an agency like the FBI, but that doesn't mean you should ever rest on your laurels. Strong encryption and two-factor authentication (where multiple devices are needed to gain access, for example) should be considered a minimum.

To further its efforts, the FBI hides behind the guise of battling terrorism, even though it's been proven time and time again that encryption has had little or no effect on major terrorist acts (no encryption was used to orchestrate the Paris attacks in November, for example). Regardless of that, the FBI is going to continue feeding money to the anti-encryption beast, which means that our encryption needs to continue to evolve. And, if you happen to be worried about your data even behind strong encryption, it's worth changing your password on a regular basis to help keep things locked down.