David Camerons Plans To Crack Down On Encryption
Topsec Technology | News From the World of IT Security
By Niall Mackey
UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced legislative plans this past Monday to ban online messaging that can’t be accessed by government security agencies. His statements came as part of an initiative to resurrect the Data Communications Bill (otherwise known as the “Snooper’s Charter”) that was shot down by its political opponents in 2012.
Popular chat and social applications such as Apple’s iMessage and FaceTime, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Microsoft’s Skype, CryptoCat, etc. incorporate the use of encryption to block surreptitious access to online messages sent between people. Mr. Cameron said he intends to put a stop to internet communications that can’t be read by police, security, and intelligence forces – even with a warrant.
According to Mr. Cameron, the reason for this is to eradicate a private and safe method of communication between terrorists and other criminals who compromise national security. Mr. Cameron’s surveillance proposal comes at the heels of the recent tragic shootings in PARIS. However, heavy debates have risen up because of communication privacy issues related to this potential ban on encryption. Taking this into account, let’s examine some of the pros and cons on whether government officials should be able to tap into online personal communications without encryption.
The Pros of the Encryption Ban
In support for this surveillance measure, authorities cannot read online messages sent via encrypted apps if they have an appropriate legal warrant. Conversely, authorities are able to read traditional letters, listen into someone’s calls, etc. if they have a warrant. Encrypted apps block officials from investigating criminal suspects’ communications if officials have permission from the courts.
Access to emails, letters, and phone calls is critical in missing persons, homicide, and other criminal investigations. Mr. Cameron states:
“The first duty of any government is to keep our country and our people safe. The attacks in Paris once again demonstrated the scale of the terrorist threat that we face and the need to have robust powers through our intelligence and security agencies, and the policing in order to keep our people safe.”
The ability to reach all forms of modern communication with the right warrants will reinforce law enforcement’s efforts to combat terrorism and resolve criminal cases.
The Cons of the Encryption Ban
If the Data Communications Bill turns into official legislation, use of the aforementioned encryption-based applications would be thrown out and made illegal. That is, U.K. residents wouldn’t be able to chat with someone via iMessage or Google Hangouts. Encrypted end-to-end messaging services offered by these companies make it very difficult, if not impossible, for them to provide decrypted messages for legal purposes. Strong encryption algorithms are part and parcel of these social chat applications.
According to UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the move to block encrypted communications for complete accessibility in terrorist investigations is only a small part of the Snooper’s Charter.He told BBC:
“The Snooper’s Charter would do absolutely nothing to deal with this issue of how we as a country have access to data which originates overseas but might relate to people who want to do us harm. The Snooper’s Charter was about storing the social media activity and websites visited by everyone in this country.”
He goes on to say that this bill doesn’t balance the fine line between national freedom and security. Heavily tracked social media and other online activity would be an utter waste of national resources because it’s not targeted toward specific people and areas, and U.K. residents would experience an intrusion of privacy because their online activity is carefully monitored. These online surveillance measures are getting blowback especially in the wake of Edward Snowdon’s (a whistleblower for the U.S. National Security Agency) shocking revelations on NSA’s spy tactics.
The bill’s push for decryption and complete transparency also undermines people who want their online actions to remain anonymous for valid reasons, such as whistleblowers, advocates, enterprises that deal with confidential data, and so on. Further, businesses have a legal right and responsibilty to protect thier sensitive information, such as health records, credit card and other financial details, and identity information, through tight security protocols that include encryption. They could face prosecution and stiff penalties if they don’t protect their confidential information.
Now that we have examined some of the pros and cons of this controversy, we are excited to find out what you think! Which side are you on and why?
By Dark Politrcks
David Cameron is basically a Luddite that has no idea how encryption or the Internet works.
Whatever he tries to do people will find a way round it, they always have.
The Snowden leaks show that not just targetted terrorists are being spied on but everyone. Put the wrong word in an email along with a sexy photo of yourself meant for your lover on a business trip and it will be flagged up for further viewing after basic keyword analysis (same as Google do for showing adverts as you type in gmail – and what ECHELON was doing decades ago)
This is from a BBC News report http://www.darkpolitricks.com/echelon-spy-network-revealed/
Remember people are only human and if they saw something amusing you could have a whole office laughing as they showed the pics around. Some people might not mind photos of their hairy private bits being passed around an office, most people probably would.
I hate hearing the “if I have nothing to fear I have nothing to lose” argument – yes you do have something to lose – privacy, liberty, freedom.
The war on terror has seen a massive increase in terrorist attacks from the 90′s after we stopped the IRA and a massive loss in our basic civil liberties. I feel sorry for Americans who now live under the Orwellian named PATRIOT ACT, National Security Letters and the NDAA that allows the President to kill a US citizen without any legal process.
How are we going to know when the war on terror has been won?
Who are our top generals going to sit down with to sign treaties to end the war on a tactic?
It’s the US scratching about, looking for enemies to fight to keep their war economy going now the Soviets are gone.
What better enemy than one you cannot see – the big boogey man terrorist who could be living next door to you.
Scare the population enough and they will allow you to do anything like automated naked strip searches at Airports or sending all our banking transactions to the USA under EU agreements.
Plus we have the most CCTV cameras on earth in this little island. Filmed on average 300 times a day by different cameras one study proved.
Ever watched the TV Programme “Person of Interest”?
The super computer within that show that can hook into every telephone and CCTV camera is not so far fetched after all.
The US have a system called TRAPWIRE that links CCTV cameras up across the country from airports to shopping centres and roads. Plus they are building an almost city sized data warehouse in UTAH to store it all.
You will be on camera long after you die: http://www.wired.com/2012/03/ff_nsadatacenter/all/1
People don’t seem to realise they are sleep walking into a surveillance state by putting everything they do up on Facebook or Instagram. The next generation will be wearing cameras on their “Google Specs” that records eveything they do and then use tools to interpret the important parts of the day and probably upload those – these already exist, James May from Top Gear did a show on it.
The concept of privacy, a private conversation will be lost to them.
Also Cameron doesn’t understand encyption. With open source tools people are already able to create their own strong encryption tools and making a conversation over a VPN will prevent most snooping anyway unless they have keyloggers and malware already installed on your PC’s.
Clever coders will always be able to bypass any method the Government comes up with and with the Snowden leaks we know the extent of the data they are collecting plus they are working with Google/FaceBook/Microsoft and every big tech company on the planet.
Even back in the 90′s the BBC reported on the NSA adding chips to Windows PC’s to bypass strong encryption methods: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/437967.stm
Whatever site gets shut down e.g PirateBay others spring up in their place. For those interested here is a guide I wrote to use blocked Torrent sites by going through TOR and using PeerBlock: http://blog.strictly-software.com/2013/08/help-fight-internet-censorship-with.html
For a detailed look at privacy and ways to bypass being snooped on read this: http://blog.strictly-software.com/2013/03/internet-censorship-and-privacy-how.html
Any real terrorists knows the CIA/NSSA/GCHQ is listening to their communications.
If I was a terrorist I would go back to basics e.g:
- Meet people in parks and talk face to face.
- Never leave a “To do list” for your next bombing op on your PC.
- Use VPNs and other encryption sources and use proxy servers to get to applications if your ISP or Country blocks access.
- You have to even making your own chat app isn’t hard, I remember doing it back in 2000.
If only the people you wanted had the app and it was using SSL with your own certs then how is David Cameron going to:
- Know about it
- Be able to ask for logs going a year back when there aren’t any
- Plus your a private citizen not a big international company like Facebook anyway
How will he handle all the secure search engines e.g DuckDuckgo/StartPage which run searches from Google without recording your details.
- Your IP address is never recorded,
- Your visit is not logged
- No tracking cookies are placed on your browser.
- Free proxy surfing available.
- Praised by privacy experts worldwide.
- Fourteen-year company track record.
- Third-party certified.
- No IP address recorded.
- No record is made of your searches.
- No identifying or tracking cookies used.
- Connection using powerful SSL encryption.
So there are many ways already to bypass Google/CIA snooping and whatever David Cameron does he will have trouble getting big international companies to comply wirth him unless he gets Obama onside on the matter.
Servers can be rented in any country to host content and ISP’s can only block so much.
Just remember privacy is one of the corner stones of a free modern civil society along with free speech.
If people think they cannot say what they want due to fear of being labelled or put on a list of “lefties” or “pirates” and maybe even banned OR searched more thoroughly wherever you go then free speech will crumble into the dust.
I am no criminal or terrorrist but I certainly don’t want the NSA/GCHQ being able to read my private thoughts or watch what I a doing when I communicate over Skype to my girlfriend in Iceland.
Remember the whole chain of being monitored in the first place starts with basic keword analysis of text. This conversation will probably be scrutinised by someone in detail just because of the frequency of certain “watch list” words. Any terrorist worth their profession would at least use a code to prevent this.
Also remember it’s the big IT and Media companies that are propagating terrorist PR in the first place. Newspapers showing Jihad John on the front page, YouTube uploads of his latest beheadings and Facebook pages devoted to these groups.
These could all be stopped easily with the keword and content analysis I talked about to prevent people creating pages devoted to ISIS and bans on the media using fear porn to sell their daily rags e.g laws to not give breath to these groups just like Gerry Adams in the 80′s.
These laws would have to be tightly written to prevent creep into stopping people who are anti government e,g Occupy protestors from falling into the category.
A simple law like “any group that chops a persons head off” cannot have content uploaded to the major sites (they will still have their own ones of course on servers based in Saudi Arabia)
And of course why are we at war with ISIS when Saudi Arabia chops limbs and stones people to death constantly. Oh yeah, Oil and arms sales. Our government has no morals or ethical foreign policy. It’s all about the Benjamins.
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