from the putting-the-'I'-back-in-'team' dept
The head of GCHQ has decided to make some belated overtures to the tech companies intelligence agencies have alienated over the past few years. With the UK's ever-evolving Investigatory Powers Act hanging around like an unwanted, hungover and extremely nosy houseguest, GCHQ Director Robert Hannigan says it's time for the government and tech companies to work together
for the mutual betterment of both to give government agencies the access they're stopping just short of legislating into existence.
He starts by stating he doesn't want to ban encryption or demand backdoors…
“It should be possible for technical experts to sit down together and work out solutions,” he said. “I am not in favor of banning encryption. Nor am I asking for mandatory back doors. …...before stating that backdoors would be a wonderful thing. They just might need to undergo rebranding.
"Not everything is a back door, still less a door which can be exploited outside a legal framework."OH. You want those kinds of backdoors: the ones that can only be solely exploited within a legal framework. Sorry, we're fresh out. It's not that tech companies don't want to help, but even "technical experts" can't craft an exploitable "not a backdoor" that can only be exploited by whoever the government decides should be able to exploit it. ("Working together" or not, it will be the government that determines access, rather than the technical experts at tech companies who designed it.)
So, Hannigan doesn't want a backdoor. He wants another set of keys for the front door and is requesting that all parties work together to decide whether this set should be left in the mailbox or under the welcome mat. This skewed view likely comes from Hannigan's assumption that the many years of tech compnany cooperation intelligence and law enforcement agencies have enjoyed comes from a deep well of heartfelt goodwill, rather than numerous laws compelling them to do so.
Nonetheless, Hannigan—making just his second appearance in a public forum since taking the helm of GCHQ in 2014—said tech companies should work more closely with governments to try to come up with ways to give law enforcement what it wants. “The perception that there is nothing but conflict between governments and the tech industry is a caricature,” he said in his speech. “In reality, companies are routinely providing help within the law, and I want to acknowledge that today.”It may have been less of a caricature pre-2013, but it was never simply about tech companies giving the government whatever it wanted whenever it asked for it. That's why the world's intelligence agencies are hoarding exploits, buying malware from shady merchants, and intercepting hardware shipments to add their own backdoors.
And so, yet another request goes out for cooperation in the ongoing search for an intelligence/law enforcement unicorn while War's "Why Can't We Be Friends?" plays in the background. Nothing's going to move forward until officials like Hannigan admit the thing they want (a safe backdoor) isn't something they can actually have -- at least not without a lot of collateral damage. If they can at least be honest enough to state they want it no matter how many problems it causes elsewhere, then maybe they'll be ready to move to the next level of discussion -- even if the "next level" means the discussion has reached its logical endpoint.