news


UK government continues quest to ruin the reputation of encryption

data spy security hack

Amber Rudd is a woman on a mission, and that mission is to mutilate the reputation of platforms like WhatsApp in the pursuit of the destruction of end-to-end encryption.

It isn’t new. Rudd must have been wronged by an online troll at some point and has taken it very personally. She is leading the charge to have WhatsApp and other social media platforms end dark and dirty practices of encryption, irrelevant to the consequences. And the offensive has now taken a different strategy.

“But we also know that end to end encryption services like Whatsapp, are being used by paedophiles,” said UK Home Secretary Rudd in her speech at the Conservative Party Conference (thank you Spectator for the transcript).

“I do not accept it is right that companies should allow them and other criminals to operate beyond the reach of law enforcement. There are other platforms and emerging trends that are equally worrying.”

It is a tactic which we have become used to, but Rudd is seemingly trying to use an association with the lowest form of human to destroy reputations of the messaging platforms. A couple of months ago it was terrorists and now it is paedophiles. And to be honest, it is a clever tactic. If she can get the public onside with a campaign of negative PR, the tech companies might be a bit more willing to come to the negotiating table.

If enough people believe WhatsApp is the home of paedophiles, then soon enough anyone who is seen using the platform could be considered a paedophile. It is PR at its finest. Negative association at its best. Who would use such a platform if everyone is going to think this about you?

In truth, it probably isn’t going to work. Rudd tried her best to use the fear as a motivator to get the public on her side with the idea that WhatsApp is the hiding ground of terrorists, now she is making an appeal to our ethical side and the protection of children. She is manipulating the instincts of parents for her own ambitions.

But what Rudd doesn’t seem to understand is that a removal or weakening of encryption software would make us less safe. Our personal information would be on a platter for any hacker who knows what they are doing. And any paedophile who has this skillset would be able to find out a wealth of information about your children. Fortunately, few politicians are respected enough to turn public opinion, and Rudd seems to sit firmly in this camp.

The British Intelligence services has some of the finest minds in the world, and the fact they are not able to crack the encryption algorithms is a good sign. It means our information is safe hidden behind the security features of platforms like WhatsApp. Rudd’s attacks on the platform are for short-term objectives, with no eye on the long-term consequences.

Yes, there will be paedophiles using WhatsApp for nefarious means, just as there will be terrorists. But these people will be in the minority. Should the vast majority of the population suffer because intelligence services haven’t adapted to the digital society?

Think about it this way, would you ban alcohol because there are alcohol related diseases? Would you outlaw cars because they can be used as getaway vehicles for criminals? Would you get rid of sex because it has led to divorces? We didn’t think so, because it is a backwards approach to the progression of technology.

Rudd’s narrow minded view on technology is not making her many friends and it will fail.


2 comments

  1. James Radley 05/10/2017 @ 2:00 pm

    As any programmer with any reasonable degree of skill can create or adapt an opensource messaging application linked with a cryptographic library in under a day, then if terrorists want to send secure messages they will always be able to do so.

    Amber Rudd is going after the wrong thing. The issue with WhatsApp is that it is whom you are contacting which is obfuscated and it is this metadata that is of real interest if you are tracking down terrorist cells. It’s also highly useful if you are trying to crack a paedophile ring.

    The issue is nuanced which doesn’t sit well with politicians because you can’t fit the argument into a succinct catchy meme (or sound byte as they used to be called).

    I don’t mind the world knowing who I exchange messages with, but I do mind if my bank details can be read by anyone as they flit across a hotel Wi-Fi network.

  2. Rui Calé 06/10/2017 @ 9:23 am

    For years, Communications Service Providers throughout the world were (and still are), obliged to expose communications for Lawful Interception. Are the new communication, like Whatsapp – just to name the one mentioned in the article – above the law?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Polls

How have open source groups influenced the development of virtualization in telecoms?

Loading ... Loading ...