As US Turns Away From Idea Of Backdooring Crypto, David Cameron Has A Problem

from the saber-rattling dept

Last week, Mike wrote about what seems an important shift in US government policy on encryption, as the White House finally recognizes that adding backdoors isn’t a sensible option. That leaves a big question mark over what the UK will do, since David Cameron and intelligence officials have been hinting repeatedly that they wanted to undermine encryption in some unspecified way. Just last week, the new head of MI5, the UK’s domestic intelligence service, gave the first-ever live media interview by a senior British intelligence official. Asked about the alleged danger of parts of the Internet “going dark”, he said:

“It requires the cooperation of the companies who run and provide services over the internet that we all use. It is in no one’s interest that terrorists would be able to plot and communicate out of the reach of any authorities with the proper legal power.”

That’s from The Guardian, and another article there points out that the UK government’s strategy of trying to get the big US online services to co-operate now looks in trouble:

If the White House does drop the battle [over backdoors] it will leave Britain with little option but to accept the widespread use of encryption. The UK’s ability to directly lobby the big American technology firms is limited, and in a report leaked in June the former British diplomat Sir Nigel Sheinwald said that a new international treaty was the only way to get the co-operation of the companies. Without the support of the White House such a treaty seems unlikely.

Without the co-operation of the tech firms what the UK government can do when facing widespread encryption is limited. In June the Home Office confirmed that, for extreme cases, it was considering inserting “black box” probes into the transatlantic cables, to collect data leaving and entering the UK. But if the communications were encrypted on their way to the US, such collection would have little value.

Of course, a lot depends on the detailed policy adopted by the US government, and whether the US intelligence community manages to exploit any future terrorist attacks to get backdoors on the agenda again. But for the moment, it seems that David Cameron’s anti-encryption saber-rattling will remain just that.

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Comments on “As US Turns Away From Idea Of Backdooring Crypto, David Cameron Has A Problem”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

There’s three MAJOR things missing there:
1) The axe that Lord Ashcroft has to grind
2) The axe that the Daily Mail constantly grinds
3) The very nature and nuance of hazing, especially as it relates to the sort of group that is going to place you in the sphere of the elite.

“The cost of entry, paid by all members of the group, is participation in humiliating acts; acts which will forever wed them to the group, because should they later act in a way contrary to the group’s interests or desires, their “indiscretions” can be brought back to destroy their careers or personal lives.”

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

… but they can certainly appreciate why such communications must be “secure”.

Well, what is that? Secure like OPM? Secure like Sony? Secure like Target? The latter had just passed a PCI compliance test, which meant exactly nothing it appears (see Krebs on Security). The other two were just twiddling their thumbs hoping not to be noticed by attackers before those in charge moved onto greener pastures (I assume). Yeah, that’ll work. Hah.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Well the #piggate comments already been made, so….

Perhaps his problem is that he has been spinning a tale to keep people distracted, and now the dominoes have stopped falling to give them cover to expand the all seeing eye.
The little boys who have been crying wolf, finally are getting the other villagers fed up with the lies. They expand and expand and none of the good they promise comes to pass, we just need more let us have more or all of the bad will get you. You can’t have secrets from us, secrets are bad… look how all of the secrets we’re keeping have screwed us time and time again. They want because the sycophants tell them this is the correct course, and no one questions how much lines the sycophants pockets vs any benefit.

The worry we need to have is more things being spun as terrorist actions, to keep everyone on edge and willing to surrender everything to be safe. And while we’d like to think them above such things, petty dictators aren’t above allowing tragedies to happen to get more mileage out of the worn out tropes. As both governments are actively doing things we see dictatorships do in the name of freedom, perhaps we need to pull them back from the abyss and say no more.

Anonymous Coward says:

I like how all the intelligence services are subtly implying that they, HAVE’NT, been reported to have the capability to circumvent isp’s and the such, and are not actively attempting to expand that level of intrusion, they’ve certainly gone out of their way NOT to say otherwise, giving the impression, intentional i suspect, that their “restricted” to certain things. A damage control office memo feeling…….like their trying to give the impression, an impression, to those who havent been paying attention to the whistleblowers, the ones likely to take everything they say at face value.

These random “snippets” in our media, Is it a coincedence, a result of their environment, or subtle indoctrination………..or a system designed or nurtured to have indoctrination a “natural” part of its system, one thats indoctored to be accepted, and indoctored to be frowned upon

We are no more, no less then animals, we all start with a blank slate, how we think, what we think is a product of our environments……we may have original thought, but alot of it is stimulated by what we see and what we hear and probably other things to……this is dangerous in the hands of a “represented” populace ignorant to that fact

educationated, its the best /ironic sarcasm (not sure if used correctly)

Anon says:


>Are you okay with me, an ordinary unspecial US Citizen, having the keys to your country’s encryption? If so, please carry on.

That’s the problem. The key to unlocking the encryption – that key will be pure gold. I sense a whole series of spy thrillers about this central theme in the future. Whichever person(s) know the information will be a burn-level threat to national security of every nation…

and once the key is out – what are the odds that all computer systems will be re-keyed (is that possible?) within a short interval? Plus, all the previously-recorded transmissions will be free for browsing. DOn’t you think China and Russia are doing something similar to the NSAA (just not the same scope).

Anonymous Coward says:

What amuses me is the fact that Bin Laden had already solved the communication problem, ten years ago. Hand carried paper and flash drives, and not relying on the internet for much of anything. Why are our supposedly super-smart “intelligence” weenies so stupid? No one in their right mind would use the open internet for much of anything, except maybe watching porn.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

No one in their right mind would use the open internet for much of anything…

Well, no high-level international terrorists. No multinational corporations working on treaty- or sanction-violating ‘under the table’ deals. No governments complicit in human trafficking. In other words, no one committing crimes on a global scale.

The rest of us, however, will continue to use the internet for pretty much everything. Some of us may be able to keep our personal communications private, but it doesn’t matter all that much when our banks, doctors, and lawyers can’t.

Pardon the cliché, but:
This only makes sense if catching terrorists isn’t actually the main purpose of mass surveillance.

Anonymous Coward says:

it doesn’t matter what the subject is, when another country adopts something, the UK is the last one to do so. it proved that when minimum working wages came in. umpteen countries in the Europe area and around the Mediterranean had tried them and found they didn’t work, so along comes the UK, full of piss and importance, gets it implemented and treats it not only as if it’s the poodles plums of an idea, but it thought of it! the other thing the UK does is wait until another country has tried something, found it doesn’t work and discards it, along comes the stupid UK government, matters not which is in power, and it plums for that something again as if it’s the best idea ever and it didn’t work for anywhere else because the governments etc concerned were stupid, didn’t know how to get it working!
as for Cameron and his cronies, a short while ago, the Tory party were up in arms about a Labour idea of having every citizen issued with an I.D. card and all citizens on a massive, fool proof database. now the Tory government wants to not only do what it voted against a few short years ago, but wants to make China’s treatment of citizens seem tame in comparison by being able to listen to every conversation, read every mail (on line or in the flesh), plot every phone call and IM and see every web site visited. if that is living up to what the UK has always been stalwart over, a world leader doing and what so many other countries wanted, i would hate to be part of what isn’t!!

Violated (profile) says:

Governments should take responsibility for their own actions when they sure had their own spy agencies go on an information rape feast beyond terrorists, beyond crime suspects, into almost every innocent home user.

Guess what when people like their privacy and anonymity.

So the public is doing what they do with their own kids namely any “toy” that is abused and misused is taken away to teach respect for property.

The Internet goes dark but these Governments also like little kids only scream and cry about how they want their spy shit back. Too bad when all the time they rant on with how what they are doing is “lawful” and how they ram through their arrogance they win little public respect.

The tools they were granted were for terrorism and nothing else, where once Governments accept that fact and operate their spy systems that way, then they can start to win some trust back.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

"no one's interest"

Our law enforcement and administrators throughout the five eyes have not proven to be fair, rational custodians with the power they have had, and they’re certainly eager to identify anyone they don’t like as a terrorist or unlawful combatant to whom due process does not apply.

So why would we capitulate?

If we are a captured people in an occupied territory, is it not our duty to cause mischief whenever we can?

This is even before we’re concerned about maintaining a modicum of human rights for ourselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Just create another false flag that kills off a few terrorists, sorry disgruntled citizens and everyone will be clamouring for backdoor exceptions once your media slaves explains how the lack of it is responsible for the attack slipping through.

The gist I get from his statement is that if you are not for your government 100% you are a terrorist to them plotting to disrupt their fascist plans

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