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United Kingdom Communications Encryption Government

UK Prime Minister Says Gov't Should Be Capable of Reading Any Communications 329

Dr_Barnowl writes: The BBC reports that UK Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to introduce a "comprehensive piece of legislation" aimed at there being no "means of communication ... we cannot read," in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris. While he didn't mention encryption specifically, the only logical means by which this could occur would be by the introduction of compulsory key escrow, and the banning of forms of encryption which do not use it. While the UK already essentially has a legal means to demand your encryption keys (and imprison you indefinitely if you don't comply), this would fall short if you have a credible reason for not having the key any more (such as using an OTR plugin for your chosen chat program).

The U.S. tried a similar tack with Clipper in the 90s. As we all know, terrorists with any technical chops are unlikely to be affected, given the vast amount of freely available, military-grade crypto now available, and the use of boring old cold war tradecraft. Ironically, France used to ban the use of strong cryptography but has largely liberalized its regime since 2011.
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UK Prime Minister Says Gov't Should Be Capable of Reading Any Communications

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  • by haruchai ( 17472 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @01:31AM (#48800153)

    Let's see you decrypt the following:

    Do kindly fuck off at your earliest convenience. Not a terrorist but like Charlie Hedbo, refuse to live on my knees.

    • by hughbar ( 579555 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @02:58AM (#48800409) Homepage
      Agree. Actually he can fuck off anyway, an awful prime-minister surrounded by greedy, idiotic cronies...
      • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @05:16AM (#48800827) Journal

        Awful? Dunno, seems like a run of the mill PM to be honest. Saying he's an awful PM implies we regularly get better PMs.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        The alternative offered later this year is either Milliband or Farage - or, god forbid, Alex Salmond if the SNP does win enough seats across the UK to affect the outcome.

        There are much worse options than Cameron currently in contention.

      • by gsslay ( 807818 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @07:05AM (#48801153)

        Cameron's real problem is that he doesn't understand anything that doesn't have profit as a bottom line. And the greedy cronies that he's surrounded by (it would be a mistake to think them idiots) aren't interested in anything that doesn't have profit as a bottom line. It is, they believe, everything that makes reality work.

        There is no obvious profit margin in other people's privacy. Therefore it has no value, and is a hindrance to where profit is to be made. So it must be removed.

        • And with elections just round the corner, he has a pressing need to prove he is a buffoon beyond reasonable doubt, in order to be in the same league as his opposition.

          I am not saying that the lot of them are not motivated by extreme short term profit, but I assure you that they are idiots too. (Occam's razor supplies a best guess, not a guaranteed solution).

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

        Don't underestimate them. They look like fools but are actually quite skilled when it comes to being malicious. Particularly Osborne and May need to be watched carefully.

    • by jeremyp ( 130771 )

      Living on your knees is entirely appropriate in a modern liberal democracy according to David Cameron.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @01:32AM (#48800155)

    If we could hook Orwell's corpse up to a turbine, we'd have the energy problem solved.

  • Capable, sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phorm ( 591458 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @01:39AM (#48800173) Journal

    Sure, you should be capable of reading anything, provided you've got the encryption key, provided you've got a warrant to request it, provided that the warrant is based on certifiable facts and a meaningful threat/need.

    Otherwise, fuck off.

  • Idiots at work (Score:5, Insightful)

    by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @01:39AM (#48800175) Journal

    I imagine that the Prime Minister thinks that he can force Google and other emails providers to hand over emails to GCHQ and, crucially, the Prime Minister cannot comprehend the idea that people can set up their own email server.

    The same argument goes for other protocols.

    Probably, no one, other than politicians and Dail Mail readers, takes this seriously. It will be forgotten about after the next election.

    • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @01:57AM (#48800247) Journal
      This is why it will fail. Not because it would destroy everyone's privacy but because it will destroy the privacy of large, international companies. They will threaten to move out of the UK, the tories will panic and the bill will disappear until the idiot in charge forgets again and attempts to resurrect it for a third time in a couple of years from now (assuming he survives the general election).
    • emails are already fair game, as they generally aren't encrypted [as in gmail has the plain text to hand over].

      while they claim this is for terrorism, the only terrorists they could catch using this 'idea' are the very dumbest ones [shoe-bomber dumb].

      but what they really want is for regular people to not casually use communication methods that they cannot read. they can't have this, and they know that require the big established players like facebook, google, apple, microsoft, yahoo to keep communications

    • Unfortunately this is a recurring theme that GCHQ has tried to push on each of last few governments seemingly in an attempt to legalise what they are already doing.
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      People could go and find a book on the one time pad idea. Or become a number station and just pump out a daily stream of random material.
      The UK wants to be able to reconcile every message into and out of the UK.
      Tempora gave the UK that ability []
      The first hop will be seen and then the destination ip within the UK after a connection within the UK or after global networking with Tor.
      The idea about that system is to ensure the world still thinks a Tempora system is too co
  • Starting with him? (Score:4, Informative)

    by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @01:40AM (#48800177)

    Funny how these guys and gals make such strong claims, but never want to be the victims of their own policies. Don't worry, we have the same exact rules in the US where politicians are immune to laws, and rich people of course. The only people subject to laws are the "common" people, or in the words of Henry Kissinger and his ilk "the useless eaters". Yeah yeah, some of their "business" communications may be classified but their emails to gramma should be fully available for public consumption.

    Petitions should go up immediately: Politicians are the "trial" batch for seeing how this works and the public requires full access to their personal communications. Beta group, or what ever you want to call them. A 2 year moratorium should be placed on any other changes pending the usefulness and feedback from that group. Further, anyone with a net worth of more than 50 million should be in the same pilot group, or perhaps make them group C phased in 1 year after the politicians are snooped upon.

    Lets also not forget that the recent terrorists in France _were_ snooped upon and used zero encryption on their mail. They were just missed in all the noise, probably because of the massive haystacks of data people "claim" they need to find something. Bigger haystacks don't make needles easier to find, quite the opposite. Many of our security experts on both sides of the pond have said that same thing.. repeatedly.

    • by grahammm ( 9083 )

      And also repeal the official secrets act and make public all communication between civil servants. After all, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Governments need to remember that they are the servants of the people not the other way round,

  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @01:42AM (#48800183) Homepage Journal

    FUCK YOU! You big-brother assmunch!

  • by Roger W Moore ( 538166 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @01:45AM (#48800197) Journal
    Let's hope he means "the authorities" and not "the government" since the government consists of MPs and if they have to be able to read it they will probably need to outlaw words with more than 3 syllables and writing something in a language other than English will count as use of advanced encryption.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      You think is things go good and they good think but big words not think so good in House.

  • Bottles and horses (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CauseBy ( 3029989 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @01:45AM (#48800199)

    In other news, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to put the genie back in the bottle. On the way to do that, he's going to shut the barn door and go looking for his horse.

  • as is its little brothers Australia and NZ. Canada gets a pass since they have hockey.

  • funnily enough (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @01:48AM (#48800215)

    it's not the terrorists attacking a magazine's office that affects your free speech...
    it's the government's RESPONSE to said attack on a free speech medium, that will have a much larger impact in limiting your free speech.

    The irony is rich, yet the statist types will NEVER understand this.

  • by GoddersUK ( 1262110 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @01:55AM (#48800241)
    The terrorists have no problem with breaking the law to kill and murder people on kamikaze missions... but I'm sure they're nice reasonable people who will stop using encryption if we make it illegal.
    • We all know that's not the goal, so stop going for the cheap mod points.

      If you stop people being able to do something legally, then the vast majority of law abiding people stop doing it. Hand guns were de-legalised back in the 1990s, and hand gun ownership dropped dramatically - so now its easy to make a judgement call as to whether than gun you found on that teenager with a hoodie is actually legitimate or not, without having to go through a license check etc. So it makes it easier, and less time consuming, for the police to remove guns from those who shouldn't be in ownership of them.

      We have seen it a lot with various things over the years - mobile phone use in cars, smoking in enclosed public places, various "legal" highs etc etc.

      The same thinking goes for encryption - allow only government approved encryption for the law abiding and when you come across a message which uses non-approved encryption then it has a higher likelihood of being related to something the police would be interested in rather than just Auntie Gene's shopping list shes sending her son.

      Note - I don't agree with the sentiment, but the thinking is sound.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Lord Kano ( 13027 )

        No, The thinking is consistent , not sound.

        It's a good thing when law enforcement officers have to take time to do their jobs. The power of the state is a terrible and awesome thing. The last thing a free society needs is law enforcement with spare time.

        An idle cop is a cop who will find something to do. If his job is to arrest people and present cases for prosecution, he'll find new and creative ways to make that happen.

        In the UK, they're doing random searches for knives...That's unthinkable in most of my

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @01:57AM (#48800245)

    My encryption key is the full text of a copyrighted book that was never licensed to me nor anyone in my country.

    If I told you it or wrote it down, it would be public performance or copyright infringement.

    Trollface Q.C.

  • For example, lets say we don't have just one password that secures everything but thousands.

    Then we can... OOPs forget it when ever the government asks and we don't want to share.

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      Just use the Declaration of Independence as key. That would be ironic.

      • I get what you're saying but that is not constructive. We need a plausible means to deny the key.

        Their attack is ultimately coming through the legal system. So we need to think about what works in a court of law.

        If we can find reasonable ways to forget keys then we can reasonably claim to have forgotten them.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

          Keep a few of those fake USB flash drives from eBay that claim to be 32GB but are actually 128MB around. Make sure they are full of corrupt data. When required to hand over your key, hand them one of those drives and tell them that the keyfile is on there. If they damage it while trying to read the data back, then they destroyed the key and there is nothing you can do about it. Chances are some low level thug, sorry constable will have gathered it up along with anything else electronic when they raided your

          • That's an interesting idea. Ideally damage it before hand. Just keep a smashed USB drive handy and say the key file is on that... "Wait, what did you do to it?!"

            That's pretty solid. Where to keep the real key file though?

    • It's called Deniable encryption [] and it's difficult [] to do correctly
  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @02:57AM (#48800407)

    All 3 Charlie Hebdo terrorists were known extremists and were under surveillance []. The French authorities simply dropped the ball and fucked up - for lack of resources or for negligence.

    They could convincingly make a case for vastly increased means of putting known terrorists under 24/7 surveillance, but the Charlie Hebdo attacks are a really poor argument for enhanced decryption powers, because the FUCKING TERRORISTS HAD BEEN CLEARLY IDENTIFIED ALREADY!

    Clearly this is yet another exploitation of people's fear-du-jour to bring the world closer to a panopticon society. Me, I'm more scared of the government than muslim terrorists. 1984 anyone?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm sad and furious. Those are the goons we are paying to protect our values. Need to puke.

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @03:38AM (#48800535)
    A "conservative" by dictionary definition does not advocate radical changes, such as removal of the right to communicate privately with banks, business associates, relatives, lovers etc.
    Keep that in mind next time one of these authoritarians tell you how conservative they are.
    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

      Also keep this in mind when saying "Liberal" when you mean "Socialist".

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        Also keep this in mind when saying "Conservative" when you mean "Fuck the Poor".

        Conservative has not had the proper definition for decades. Today it's all about helping the rich friends that fund re-election coffers.

  • STASI think the same (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I notice UKIP, a competing party to the conservatives, have had their private phone calls leaked.

    How exactly can it be that old phone calls are recorded then leaked just as a person stands for an elected seat. Let me guess... GCHQ.

  • by Mirar ( 264502 )

    The UK government really don't like it's people.

    Pity Scotland didn't manage to leave.

    Turn it around instead. Let the people see all official documents and plans.

    • Yes, its a pity Scotland didn't manage to leave - Salmonds plans would be right down the shitter at the moment as his entire fiscal policy was based on North Sea oil and gas income, which has just been completely slashed for the forseeable future. Losing Scotland would have been worth it to see him try and talk his way out of that.

      • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

        Yeah I live in Scotland and voted No. Was really worried at the time, however the vote was nowhere near as close as advertised mostly due to what I would describe as voter intimidation by Yes campaigners.

        However I would like another referendum next month so we can hammer the SNP's economic plans for the lies they always where and get another No vote to shut the them up permanently.

        I would note the SNP have been very quite on the issue of oil and gas prices and the impact this would have had on their fiscal

  • They can start by reading my family doctor's notes.
  • I agree (Score:5, Funny)

    by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @04:21AM (#48800669)

    UK Prime Minister Says Gov't Should Be Capable of Reading Any Communications

    Yes, literacy level in the government is appalling, something really should be done about it,

  • I don't get it... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @04:50AM (#48800759)

    Some random guys in ski masks shoot up a newspaper office because the newspaper prints something they don't like and all of a sudden most of Europe wants to bring in censorship and restrictions on the freedoms that a democracy is supposed to bring? Isn't that exactly what the terrorists want? Shouldn't we (and by we I mean the democracies of the world and their citizens) be protecting our freedoms in the face of bad people like this?

    I dont support terrorists but I also dont support most of the actions that have been taken by governments in the USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany and elsewhere in the name of the so-called "war on terror" (there are some measures like strengthening and securing cockpit doors that do make sense though)

  • An in due course, will leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition David Cameron accept that Prime Minister Edward Milliband, as leader of the government should be capable of reading any communication such as Conservative party policy, election and campaign plans, electorate candidate profiles, and such-like.

    I mean, he did say: "any communications"....

  • UK = Hypocrites (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @06:14AM (#48800975)

    Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons, "[...] we stand squarely for free speech and democracy. [...]"

    This is the same country that:

    * Arrests people for saying "offensive" things on Facebook/Twitter
    * Prosecutes people for having "offensive" Japanese manga featuring lolicon, yet defends cartoon images of the Prophet Muhammed which some members of the Islamic community finds "offensive."
    * Sends GCHQ thugs around to a newspaper to smash their hard drives and other perphierals into a gazillion pieces
    * Has secret trials
    * Forces people to disclose their passwords for encryption volumes or other things such as websites and jails those who fail to do so

    Need I go on?

  • I thought they were already recording and keeping pretty much every byte of the Internet and other comms in the UK anyway. Even thought I missed a major IRA bomb back in the 90s by about 20mins, I can still safely say I'd much rather have my privacy and take my chances on the tiny risk of injury/death by terrorists. Crossing the road or getting in my car is way more riskier. Heck, doing the decorating at home is more risky. Privacy please. Get out my business.
  • by Kazoo the Clown ( 644526 ) on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @07:28AM (#48801269)
    The fact that these scum choose to use the Charlie Hebdo attack to justify it particularly stinks. I'm sure the Charlie Hebdo victims weren't doing the cartoons in order to get the government to outlaw free speech, but that's the impact such action would have.

    Encryption insures you can speak freely without the chilling effect of knowing your government may be listening. To ban it is clearly to eliminate freedom of speech.
  • So, when is he going to allow all UK citizens to read his Mail, Email, and listen in on his phone conversations?

    His ass needs to lead by example.

  • After the Charlie event, I wondered how long it would take before politicians start speaking about stuff like that. It did not take too long, that was expected. They are so predictable... This event creates great opportunities for some to push a long standing agenda. Noting new here.

    Hopefully, people in France remain really prudent about the "privacy vs security" debate, and viscerally attached to liberty (but not necessarily to privacy). I have seen some ex minister asking for a "french patriot act"... som

  • by laird ( 2705 ) <lairdp@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday January 13, 2015 @09:28AM (#48801775) Journal

    It's easy to set up secure communications within a small, trusted group. So this won't affect any real terrorists that are organized enough to be a real threat. They just install PGP (for example), just as anyone else can. And since the security is end-to-end, it's secure no matter what mail system it passes through. And no matter what laws anyone passes, math still works, so end-to-end encryption is secure from anyone attacking the security. And it's open source, so they can't sneak in corruptions to subvert security. Math doesn't care about politics - if the attackers are your government, or foreign attackers, it's all the same math that protects your communications.

    What it will do, though, is let them collect tons of data from from people who aren't serious terrorists. Think of the fun the can have with that!

    The real answer to terrorism isn't increased surveillance, or the "magic pixie dust" of data mining, it's real police work. That's what's stopped ever terrorist attack (that's been stopped) so far. If they cared about security, instead of surveillance or big equipment contracts, they'd focus on the stuff that works. Hire lots of smart people, train them and equip them, and pay them well, to do the hard work. The rest, attempting to outlaw encryption, scanning people's shoes, etc., is all a stupid waste of time and money, degrading our society's freedom (i.e. doing what the terrorists want) while achieving nothing of value.

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost