End-to-end encryption doesn’t stop the FBI reading your messages. Just ask Paul Manafort

Graham Cluley

End-to-end encryption doesn't stop the FBI reading your messages. Just ask Paul Manafort

End-to-end encryption doesn't stop the FBI reading your messages. Just ask Paul Manafort

US prosecutors have accused Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort of attempting to get witnesses to lie for him in court.

According to a motion filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office, Manafort contacted witnesses by phone and an encrypted text messaging app in an attempt to secure “materially false testimony.”

Now, if you’re privacy-conscious, you may be alarmed to hear that the authorities were seemingly able to read Manafort’s end-to-end encrypted conversations. Does this suggest that there’s a backdoor in WhatsApp, or a flaw in its encryption code?

Woah! Don’t panic.

You see, there’s a very easy way the authorities can find out what you have been saying in your encrypted messaging app: They just ask the person to whom you sent the message.

End-to-end encryption is really neat, but it only encrypts *between* those who are doing the communicating. Yes, it stops third parties from intercepting and snooping on your messages, but if the authorities manage to get hold of your unlocked device or simply ask you to show you the messages… they’ve found out what you were talking about.

And that appears to be precisely what has happened in this case.

Doc

Persons D1 and D2 both preserved the messages they received from Manafort and Person A, which were sent on encrypted applications, and have provided them to the government.

So, if you have something that needs to be kept secret don’t for a second think that entrusting it to an encrypted messaging app ensures that it won’t end up being seen by others.

Paul Manafort, who is facing multiple charges of money laundering, bank fraud and illegal lobbying, has denied all the charges against him.

Graham Cluley Graham Cluley is a veteran of the anti-virus industry having worked for a number of security companies since the early 1990s when he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows. Now an independent security analyst, he regularly makes media appearances and is an international public speaker on the topic of computer security, hackers, and online privacy. Follow him on Twitter at @gcluley, or drop him an email.

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