UK Government has another run up at encryption
UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd has taken another dim-witted swipe at end-to-end encryption claiming that terrorists are the only ones who care about it, reports Telecoms.com (Banking Technology‘s sister publication).
It’s the latest chapter in one of the most short-sighted and ill-informed books available today, as Rudd has continued her moronic quest to make the digital world less-safe. In this installment, Rudd has written a piece for the Telegraph in which she claims the UK public does not care about the security features which are on OTT platforms such as WhatsApp, but just use it because of simplicity and cost effectiveness.
In one manner of speaking she does have a point. Your correspondent does not use WhatsApp first and foremost because of the security features, it is ease of use. But, if there was a choice between having such features and not having, the decision is very simple. To use another example, your correspondent also does not care that cars have airbags. Should they be removed to make the car lighter, faster and more efficient? Of course not, it’s a safety feature which we are not supposed to care about; it’s there for when we need it.
The same can be said of encryption. Online safety is not something companies like WhatsApp want us to worry about because they are taking care of it. End-to-end encryption works, and that is all we need to know.
What should also be quite concerning is the Home Secretary’s attitude towards security. Not just that she would like to remove a barrier of protection, but that she seemingly thinks that is okay the general public do not care about security. If they do not care about it, why bother having it? Perhaps an explanation here is that the effectiveness of it allows us not to care about it.
The ambition here of the UK government is to create a safer world for us. By weakening encryption algorithms, intelligence agencies can more readily monitor potential threats. But by enhancing the security inside our borders, the danger of the online world exponentially increases. People are confident in sending sensitive information to friends via WhatsApp because it is so secure. By weakening encryption, Rudd will essentially be laying out a welcome mat to hackers across the world.
Now some may point out that the threat is very minimal; you would have to be very unlucky to be caught out. This is true, but that doesn’t make the threat any less real. If it only happens to one in a thousand people, that one person has had their lives turned upside-down. For companies like WhatsApp, that is not good enough. The reputations are built on the ability to consistently perform. If WhatsApp is not keeping every single person on the platform safe and secure, it is not doing its job.
Another worrying factor is the idea of influence. The UK might be falling down the global pecking order, but it is still an influential country, as has been shown by the Australian’s copycatting the failed Snoopers Charter. Governments are constantly looking to what laws work around the world and attempting to replicate them; this could be a dangerous domino to topple.
Home Secretary Rudd has shown herself to be out of touch with previous comments around online security, but this one takes it to new heights. To claim that terrorists are the only ones to benefit from end-to-end encryption is ill-informed, dangerous and quite frankly embarrassing. How do people like this get elected?
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