Mobile Encryption will leave Carriers in the Dark

by Matt Klassen on September 30, 2015

Ever since Edward Snowden went public with leaked documents about the NSA’s nefarious espionage, the world has become a very different place, one where data is now largely seen as a commodity, with companies trying to figure out how to get it, and people trying to figure out how to hang on to what they potentially have to offer.

In response, data encryption and enhanced Internet security protocols have increasingly become the order of the day, for while such standards used to be applied only to a small portion of data traffic, today almost 60 percent of all mobile data is encrypted, and much of it pointlessly so.

The problem now, according to a press release from Openwave Mobility, is that amidst are cries for privacy and security and the fears of data theft and Big Brother, most of the data flowing over networks cannot be observed or analyzed by anyone, carriers included. And when we leave network operators in the dark, my friends, the unfortunate reality is that many of the services and security protocols many of us depend on sadly go dark as well.

According to Openwave Mobility, with the exponential proliferation of encrypted data traffic now accounting for 60 percent of all network traffic, based on current trends that number will rise to 80 percent in one year. Now I know what some of you are thinking, isn’t data encryption a good thing? Shouldn’t we be happy that our mobile data, even the most mundane, is protected from intrusive hands and prying eyes?

Unfortunately, the widespread adoption of enhanced HTTPS encrypted Internet protocols threatens to unravel the very fabric of mobile and online services, as they will leave carriers in the dark, unable to gain necessary insights into the data flowing across their networks, analysis that allows carriers to effectively manage their networks, reducing the security measures they’re able to put in place.

Consider this, when networks go “dark” and carriers are no longer able to see the data travelling on them, operators will struggle to provide filters to block content such as adult materials, they won’t be able to spot traffic that might perhaps be used in terrorism or other extreme purposes, and they won’t be able to optimize traffic, meaning at the very least, your personal experience of your mobile network will suffer.

“The dangers with encrypted traffic are very real,” said John Giere, CEO of Openwave Mobility. “Only a couple of years ago, it was mainly emails and financial data that were encrypted. Thanks to what some people call the “Edward Snowden effect”, content providers are adopting ever-deeper encryption. Even YouTube videos are now delivered over HTTPS protocols. So, the higher the number of videos being consumed by subscribers, the bigger the headache”.

While there are potential ramifications for the general public, the darkening of the Web stands as a serious problem from carriers, for if they were disappointed at being a “dumb pipe” before, they’ll be truly dismayed at their level of data ignorance in the coming months.

Consider the ramifications this could have for the entire make-up of the Internet, a framework currently built largely on advertising revenue wrought from data analysis, gleaned from user behaviour. Take away the ability to observe, record, or analyse anything anyone does on the Internet, and there goes targeted advertising, location specific marketing, and a host of other things that we’ve just started getting used too.

In the end, I’ll admit that I’m interested to see just how far the adoption of enhanced HTTPS Internet security protocols goes, for although the general public may think that’s what they want, I would like to see how they feel when all their “smart” gadgets go dark as well, their mobile carriers unable to deliver them all those data-driven services we’ve grown to love.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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