The deadly terrorist attacks in Paris have placed the spotlight back on encrypted messaging apps, and whether spies of the United States government should be given access to the encrypted messages that are being sent through the Internet.
Intelligence agencies have long been clamoring to be provided with so-called backdoors which would allow them to monitor e-mails, messages, calls, and other forms of electronic communications despite encryption. However, technology companies and privacy advocates have opposed the motion, with all legislative efforts to provide such backdoors so far being repelled.
A security official for the United States said that there has been no evidence yet that the attackers in Paris utilized a certain method of communication, and whether they utilized encryption for their communications.
However, several United States intelligence officials and lawmakers seized the opportunity to once again push for the implementation of backdoors.
"Silicon Valley has to look at its products because if you create a product that allows evil monsters to communicate in this way, to behead children, to strike innocents - whether it's at a game in a stadium, in a small restaurant in Paris, take down an airliner - that's a big problem," said United States Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Former Central Intelligence Agency deputy director said that the discussions regarding encryption have mostly been shaped by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and his allies, but a new chapter will unfold after the events in Paris.
Obama administration officials are claiming, despite there being no definite evidence yet, that the Islamic State used several encryption technologies over the previous one and a half years. Many of these technologies could not be cracked by the National Security Agency.
Some of the most powerful encryption technologies are publicly available for free, including apps such as Wickr, Signal and Telegram. Militants from the Islamic State utilized Telegram a couple of weeks ago to claim the responsibility for the Russian jet crash in the Sinai Peninsula, and then used the app again to claim the responsibility for the attacks in Paris. It is not clear, however, if the group also uses the secret messaging service of Telegram to hide private messages between its members.
John Brennan, the director of the CIA, said that the attacks in Paris were a wake-up call on the issue of encrypted messaging apps, adding that the focus on privacy was limiting the ability of intelligence agencies to prevent such acts of terrorism.
Cybersecurity experts believe that similar comments would be made by officials in the future, especially if it is confirmed that the attackers utilized encrypted messaging apps for communications.
"If you want controls on encryption, and you see an attack where encryption might have been used, then you are going to say something," said Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts professor of cybersecurity policy Susan Landau.