UK Confuses Gullible Reporter Into Believing It Changed Its Position On Encryption

from the tricking-the-press-is-so-easy dept

We've talked a few times about how UK Prime Minister David Cameron has made it abundantly clear that he wants to backdoor encryption to make sure law enforcement and intelligence agencies can read private communications. Back in January, he made it clear that the UK "must not" allow there to be any "means of communication [that] isn't possible to read [by the government]." Just a few weeks ago, he once again made it clear that there should be no "safe space" where anyone can communicate without the government being able to spy on you (that there already is the ability for two people to converse in person without being spied upon is left ignored).
"We just want to ensure that terrorists do not have a safe space in which to communicate. That is the challenge, and it is a challenge that will come in front of the House.

"We have always been able, on the authority of the home secretary, to sign a warrant and intercept a phone call, a mobile phone call or other media communications, but the question we must ask ourselves is whether, as technology develops, we are content to leave a safe space—a new means of communication—for terrorists to communicate with each other.

"My answer is no, we should not be, which means that we must look at all the new media being produced and ensure that, in every case, we are able, in extremis and on the signature of a warrant, to get to the bottom of what is going on."
This is, of course, no different than what the FBI has been whining about in the US as well. Basically they're both demanding backdoors into encryption, so that the government can access whatever it wants. They are demanding this because they're basically ignorant of how such backdoors effectively undermine security, put more people at risk and open up that access to much more than just the government.

However, it's not just the government officials who are confused about this. It appears that reporters and supposedly respected publications can't get it right either. Business Insider -- which seems to get the little things wrong on a fairly consistent basis -- has a big story up trumpeting that the UK has made a giant "U-turn" and will no longer seek to attack encryption.
Except this is neither huge, nor a U-turn. It's not even really notable, other than the statements show just how confused basically everyone is about the issue. The problem is that some people falsely interpreted the original statements to mean that the UK wanted to ban encryption, rather than simply backdoor end-to-end encryption. Those are two different things. So the statement that Business Insider's Rob Price got from the government is simply correcting his false impression that anyone was planning an outright ban on encryption -- something no one has actually proposed.
But Number 10 is now emphatically denying that Cameron is considering such a ban, telling Business Insider, "The Prime Minister did not suggest encryption should be banned."

"We accept and completely recognise the importance of encryption," a representative said, highlighting its use in e-commerce as an example of why it will not be outlawed. The person did reiterate, however, that the British government believes "terrorists cannot have a safe space in which to operate" online — raising the question of how it hopes to achieve this.
See? This is neither huge nor a U-turn. It's simply the UK government reiterating what Cameron said: that they would like to figure out ways to backdoor end-to-end encryption. Which is, you know, the same thing he's been saying for months. The real story here is that this is a really dumb idea that will make the internet less safe -- but there is no change in position by Cameron. Just a confused reporter for a publication that apparently has no reporters or editors who understand the subjects they're writing about.

Filed Under: backdoors, david cameron, encryption, end-to-end encryption, journalism, reporting, uk


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  • icon
    TruthHurts (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 7:45am

    The original interpretation was correct...

    Quote: The problem is that some people falsely interpreted the original statements to mean that the UK wanted to ban encryption, rather than simply backdoor end-to-end encryption.

    I'm sorry, but those that interpreted the original statements to mean that the UK wanted to ban encryption were correct.

    Introducing a backdoor to any form of encryption, ends that encryption's ability to function properly.

    Backdoors to encryption means no encryption, period.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2015 @ 8:04am

      Re: The original interpretation was correct...

      You're interpreting the effective result rather than the actual circumstances.

      If they were actually banning encryption outright, at least users would know that they were always exposed and could adjust (or leave the UK or break the law).

      But backdooring encryption while leaving it nominally in place is deceptive to those who don't understand encryption (a large portion of the populace).

      So no, they're not banning encryption, they're making it a honeypot.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        TruthHurts (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 8:10am

        Re: Re: The original interpretation was correct...

        You can play word games all you want, but the net effect of backdooring encryption equates the end of encryption.

        If you want an example, look at the DVD and BluRay encryption specs. Once details about the encryption leaked, it was broken. Updates to BluRay encryption typically last about 24 to 72 hours max.

        Do you really think that once back doors were added that any other form of encryption would survive better than these 2 do?

        Don't fool yourself. Backdoors to encryption = No encryption.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Ninja (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 8:44am

          Re: Re: Re: The original interpretation was correct...

          Off topic: Updates to BluRay encryption typically last about 24 to 72 hours max. That's why I've never bought a blu-ray even though I could play them.

          On topic: You can play word games all you want, but the net effect of backdooring encryption equates the end of encryption.

          Technically. But nominally you can still say that "encryption is allowed" which is his point. And the point the journalists in the article missed. We know that backdoors = no encryption but do the average joe know it?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            TruthHurts (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 9:00am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: The original interpretation was correct...

            Sorry, but using DVD and BluRay encryption as an example of how poor encryption is when there's a known decryption scheme is dead-on.

            Just because you don't like that it proves my point, doesn't make it off-topic.

            For another dead-on comparison, let's look at SSL v1.0, v2.0 and v3.0...

            Each time, once the encryption was cracked, security blurbs went out telling people to stop using/trusting them.

            Backdoored encryption = cracked encryption = no encryption.

            I do thank you for proving my point though.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              MrTroy (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 11:06pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The original interpretation was correct...

              Just because you want to believe that it proves your point, doesn't make it on-topic.

              Breaking encryption and banning encryption are not the same thing, even though some of the symptoms are similar. Arresting a shoplifter and killing a shoplifter are not the same thing, even though some of the symptoms are similar.

              Heck, introducing a flaw in encryption and finding a flaw in encryption aren't even the same thing, even if one can lead to the other. I understand that you have a similar emotional response to the ideas of breaking encryption and banning encryption, but that *still* doesn't make it the same thing.

              I agree with you that either is a bad thing, but your original statement, "I'm sorry, but those that interpreted the original statements to mean that the UK wanted to ban encryption were correct.", is plain wrong. Those interpretations were incorrect and harmful, they lead to people debating the wrong point and being dismissed, and (can) end up hiding any debate over the actual issues.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                TruthHurts (profile), 16 Jul 2015 @ 7:13am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The original interpretation was correct...

                Again, all you're doing is playing word games with semantics.

                Broken encryption cannot be considered to be encryption any longer because it no longer performs the function that it was designed to do.

                Backdoored encryption is broken encryption. Therefor backdoored encryption can no longer be considered as encryption.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2015 @ 8:54pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The original interpretation was correct...

                  You're still playing the technical game but ignoring the fact that not everyone is technical. You can speak Klingon all you want, but non-trekkies will not understand you. The general public won't get that the encryption is vulnerable if it nominally stays in place.

                  The truth is more than what you think it is or focus on. There are other aspects to consider. Regular day-to-day people will trust that the banking websites and email providers that they use will ensure their security. What a computer science professor might consider "not encryption" is irrelevant to them if it's still called encryption or information security.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2015 @ 8:54pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The original interpretation was correct...

                  You're still playing the technical game but ignoring the fact that not everyone is technical. You can speak Klingon all you want, but non-trekkies will not understand you. The general public won't get that the encryption is vulnerable if it nominally stays in place.

                  The truth is more than what you think it is or focus on. There are other aspects to consider. Regular day-to-day people will trust that the banking websites and email providers that they use will ensure their security. What a computer science professor might consider "not encryption" is irrelevant to them if it's still called encryption or information security.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          nasch (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 4:22pm

          Re: Re: Re: The original interpretation was correct...

          You can play word games all you want, but the net effect of backdooring encryption equates the end of encryption.

          No, it equates the end of effective encryption, which is not the same thing. As A/C has explained, if there is still ineffective encryption, many people will continue to use that without realizing it's ineffective, whereas if encryption were entirely banned, everyone would realize it. It is not word games, it's a meaningful difference in outcomes.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            TruthHurts (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 5:41pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: The original interpretation was correct...

            I'm trying to figure out if you work for an alphabet agency or are just an apologist, but whichever the case may be, you're still just playing word games.

            "effective encryption" ? pah - word games

            "encryption with *government only* back-doors" - pah - word games.

            Encryption isn't encryption unless it's;

            A) Secure from back-doors
            B) Hasn't been hacked / cracked
            C) Nobody but the person who encrypted the file has the original encryption keys
            D) Nobody but the people that the originator wants to have the decryption keys have said decryption keys.

            If any of these elements aren't true, then for all intents and purposes it may as well be plain text.

            So play all your silly Alphabet Organization / Apologist word games you want, the rest of us in the real world know the truth.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              nasch (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 7:10pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The original interpretation was correct...


              So play all your silly Alphabet Organization / Apologist word games you want, the rest of us in the real world know the truth.


              Holy crap dude. The world is not divided into the two groups of people who agree with you and people who are on the other side and must be stopped at all costs. I am not an apologist. I am actually saying that backdoored encryption is even worse than banning encryption. For some reason you are unable or unwilling to even see the difference. I would try an analogy, but if it's been explained to you twice with no effect whatsoever, I give up.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                Ninja (profile), 16 Jul 2015 @ 5:33am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The original interpretation was correct...

                Yeah, it's fruitless to discuss with him. Most people here is saying that he is right but that this is technically speaking, officially the tune will be another one. It's typical of people that are way into the tech part and disregard the human/social aspect. Yes, backdooring encryption may have the same effect as banning it but officially it allows the Govt to say it won't ban encryption.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                TruthHurts (profile), 16 Jul 2015 @ 7:18am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The original interpretation was correct...

                Word games is all you played, you did not, because you cannot, show how broken / cracked / back-doored "encryption" can be considered as encryption any longer.

                To be encryption, it must follow the following rules.

                A) Secure from back-doors that break rules C and/or D
                B) Hasn't been hacked / cracked that break rules C and/or D.
                C) Nobody but the person who encrypted the file has the original encryption keys
                D) Nobody but the people that the originator wants to have the decryption keys have said decryption keys.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Pvblivs, 16 Sep 2015 @ 9:15pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The original interpretation was correct...

                  You keep saying "word games." But the only one playing them is you. People have correctly pointed out to you that there is a very real difference between banning encryption and breaking encryption. When the encryption is broken, rather than banned, the government tricks people into revealing their innermost secrets because they think they are safe.

                  With an outright ban, people would realize that unwanted ears could listen in. With a backdoor, only technically savvy people realize this. The proposed backdoor is worse than a ban because most people would think they were safe when they were not. That is no mere word game. That is the point you are refusing to address. The government is trying to make people think they are safe rather than openly admitting that they are listening in.

                  In fact, your repeated claims of "word games" only helps the government agencies. They will show people that they can use encryption applications. And people will be able to see these applications. They will see no ban. And they will see you saying that if there is no ban, they are safe -- because you are saying every danger equals a ban. And because of you, such people will disregard the warnings of all the other people here who are telling them that, even though they can see an encryption product with their own eyes, their communications are still not secure.

                  Congratulations, you have done more for the alphabet soup agencies than 100 PR agents working full time ever could.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        saulgoode (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 8:37am

        Re: Re: The original interpretation was correct...

        In order to prevent people communicating in private, it would be necessary to ban the use of any encryption that hasn't been backdoored; otherwise it would always be possible to add an extra layer of encryption to one's messages (using Enigmail or somesuch).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Spaceman Spiff (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 8:01am

    Cameron is an idiot!

    Ok Mr. C. Enforce a back-door into encryption, and all of YOUR communications will be compromised also - and probably on the Internet within 2 days!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 8:45am

      Re: Cameron is an idiot!

      One encryption for thee and other for me. Do we seriously think the Government would use the same backdoored encryption? They are smarter than they look like.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2015 @ 8:20am

    They don't want to ban ALL encryption...

    just effective encryption.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2015 @ 8:30am

    War on privacy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2015 @ 9:34am

    so when the government has made it law that there can be back doors for law enforcement to get into communications, which will obviously allow everyone else who wants to to get into them as well, who is gonna foot the bill when my little bit has been pilfered out of my bank account, because i was not allowed to use strong enough encryption, due to the ridiculous law the government is going to bring in?

    and moving on to a piece i read yesterday about how China has now increased the security there to stop certain web sites being accessed and started arresting civil rights lawyers, how can the UK ever condemn a country over human rights again? it is making a rod for the backs of the people, not just the government! it wouldn't be so bad if it were to stop terrorism but it isn't even for that. it's so the government knows exactly what every ordinary person is doing!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 4:24pm

      Re:

      who is gonna foot the bill when my little bit has been pilfered out of my bank account, because i was not allowed to use strong enough encryption, due to the ridiculous law the government is going to bring in?

      Was that a rhetorical question? You're going to foot the bill of course. Unless you're extremely rich and then I'm sure your people can find a way to have an insurance company or government cover it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    technopeasant (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 9:45am

    ENCRYPT IT ALL AUTOMATICALLY

    Its only a matter if time before the slow-minded Neo-Luddites realize our information is either to be used for surveillance or for secure communications. To either one-way encrypt everything including cell phones or stop deluding ourselves and encrypt nothing. It’s plain to all that the latter is untenable yet leaders on both side of the Atlantic still pine for a backdoor into everything.

    Those who say "Encryption is bunk, I've got nothing to hide" are forgetting that in some countries it would be impossible to live their lives as openly as they live them now. When dissidents are the only people using encryption then the gov't can easily identify who the dissidents are. Whereas if everyone encrypted then everyone is safe from targeted surveillance. Terrorists and criminals can create their own encryption. Does anyone think they would be stupid enough to leave a backdoor in it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2015 @ 10:27am

    Even in fairytale land it would be devastating...

    Let us say that unicorns existed and backdooring encryption was possible for the good guys only with a total reinvention of encryption. In this imaginary land they would still ruin everything, because they would not wait for a proper solution.
    They want it now! and if sanity is thrown out the window and they are allowed to do this, then we would end up with the worst possible and most unsecured solution of them all just because it could be done next month and not in 5 years.
    I'd bet they would wind up with something akin to 1 password for everything. When that password leaked people would at best be informed to update this to a new key manually, which many won't do in years, and at worst be spread all over the net while they would deny it feverishly and try to prosecute themselves out of it.
    This would be in the fantasy land where things like dragons, magic beings and good guy only backdoor encryption would be possible. We are in for worse in the real world.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TruthHurts (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 11:00am

    Encryption is how we protect our Constitutional Rights

    Poor Alphabet Government Agency...

    I'm sorry, but the bill of rights doesn't stipulate limitations on our inalienable rights.

    Let's go check.. hmmm, Bill of Rights, 4th amendment

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    Scanning... Processing... Processing... Processing...

    Ah-hah.. I was right...

    There are NO EXEMPTIONS to this right.
    That means that you don't get to clamor about how encryption is hurting investigations because of *GASP* terrorists .. extremists .. whateverists ..

    The 4th amendment applies to EVERYONE. Get it? Got it? Get over yourselves!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2015 @ 11:04am

    these governments know what they are doing is illegal so they want to be able to watch their citizens to see who wants to take them to task over their criminal governments.

    It is a lot easier for a criminal to stay in power if he arrests anyone that speaks ill of him. In order to do that he needs to know who is speaking ill of him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Jul 2015 @ 1:05pm

    An evil goal

    "We just want to ensure that terrorists do not have a safe space in which to communicate."

    Let's just stop there, shall we? Since we control who gets labeled "terrorist", what we are saying is we want to spy on everyone we so desire.

    At some point, that someone will be you.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 15 Jul 2015 @ 6:41pm

      Re: An evil goal

      Oh, but it gets worse. You see, because they can't know ahead of time who is a terrorist(or might be one, or who is accused of being one...), the only possible way to make sure that 'terrorists' have no safe form of communication is to eliminate any form of secure communication, otherwise a would-be-terrorist will simply use one of the secure methods of communication.

      The only way to eliminate secure forms of communications for terrorists is to eliminate them for everyone.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jul 2015 @ 1:47am

    They keep dancing around the fact that their mandate is to STORE EVERYTHING, making a copy of EVERYTHING and EVERYONES personal privacy, bulldozing through that slight FUCKED up fact in hopes that people wont focus on it, to then have the cheek to complain that its not in open text format

    Gostapo third reich would be envious with this kind of IMMENSE power.......and our governments are not made up of fucking angels, at some point an evil or misguided fool will abuse it

    To put it in perspective, if a goverment wanted this kind of information pre internet, they would have to stop and search everyone at everytime, have a cameras and microphones stationed EVERYWHERE.....WITHOUT a warrent.........we are in the age of guilty until proven innocent, and they have the audacity to pretend to be the good guy

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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