No middle ground: Moving on from the crypto wars

Press release

No middle ground: Moving on from the crypto wars

The ‘second crypto war’ is in full swing; European governments need to stop trying to defeat encryption and get more sophisticated themselves instead.

This ‘war’ began with the Snowden leaks in 2013 and has since escalated with the rise of numerous terrorist attacks across Europe. Government demands that companies weaken encryption to better fight crime have seen the likes of Apple, WhatsApp, and Telegram come under intense political pressure.

In a new report for ECFR, “No Middle Ground: Moving on from the Crypto Wars,” Stefan Soesanto argues that supposed ‘solutions’ to this problem have revealed themselves to be faulty time and again. Key escrow and built-in ‘backdoors’ for law enforcement and security agencies would deprive citizens at large of the benefits of public cryptography won during the ‘first crypto war’ in the 1990s.

Encryption and specifically end-to-end encryption are here to stay, says Soesanto. And “a targeted approach is the only alternative to backdoors, key escrow schemes, and obliging companies to weaken encryption. This means that law enforcement and intelligence agencies need to have the resources, tools, and legal framework at their disposal in order to hack into computers and mobile devices.”

Stefan Soesanto comments: “Accepting a middle ground or finding a balanced solution on the issue of encryption is neither feasible nor, in fact, desirable. Privacy advocates and security researchers might rejoice to hear this, as they are destined to win the fight on stronger encryption – but they will pay by losing the war on security – and most likely fragment along those fault lines in the not-so-distant future.


Note to the editors

Download the PDF: LINK

About the author:

Stefan Soesanto is the former Cybersecurity & Defence Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and a non-resident James A. Kelly Fellow at Pacific Forum. At ECFR, he designed and held a cyber wargame exercise in cooperation with Microsoft and organised the Odense Cybersecurity & Defence Conference together with the Center for War Studies at the University of Southern Denmark and the Office of the Danish Tech Ambassador.

Media enquiries:

For comments and interview requests, please contact ECFR’s communications director, Ana Ramic, at [email protected]  T: +49 (0)30 3250510-27 M: +49 (0)151 65114216; ECFR’s communications team at [email protected] or the author at [email protected] and on Twitter at @iiyonite.

This paper, like all ECFR publications, represents the views of its authors, not the collective position of ECFR or its Council Members.

The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) is the first pan-European think-tank. Launched in October 2007, its objective is to conduct research and promote informed debate across Europe on the development of coherent and effective European values based foreign policy. ECFR is an independent charity and funded from a variety of sources. For more details go to

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