back to article Why US Feds and g-men kick up a stink about a growing smartphone encryption trend

Over the last few weeks law enforcement officials on both sides of the Atlantic have been kicking up a fuss over Apple and Google deciding to include effective encryption on their smartphones. On Thursday, the Europol assistant director and head of European Cybercrime Centre issued a warning about the technology, and here in …

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Big Brother

Don't be fooled...

Apple and Google aren't doing this because of privacy concerns...

They're doing this because it costs them money to have to find and hand over data about their users to law enforcement officers all the time...

(Not to mention the money lost in sales if they didn't add encryption...)

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or maybe

Because Symbian was doing it in 2008 and possibly earlier with the E series. It isn't anything new it just came absurdly late to iOS and Android.

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Re: Don't be fooled...

It doesn't cost them a cent. In the UK at least, they charge the government agencies a data retrieval fee and in all likelihood manage to make a profit out of it.

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Anonymous Coward

The really funny part

The really funny part is that whole device encryption has been in Android, although the default is to have it off, for years. It's under "Settings", "Security", "Encrypt Device" & "Settings", "Security", "Encrypt external sd card".

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Childcatcher

Re: Don't be fooled...

Upvoted. And I basically just said the same thing.

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Re: Don't be fooled...

Wrong. First off, Google cannot do this, so it doesn't cost them money beyond having a legal clerk turn back any warrants issued to them with an appropriate statement. Google are are making their 3 year old unbackdoored encryption the default for phones with lock words or patterns because Apple did it with iOS8.

Apple are doing it for the publicity and do draw attention from the fact that what they probably devised as a service for those who forgot how to unlock their phones was a back door for authorities armed with warrants but with high probability eventually also for thieves. Apple have quite enough talent to have largely mechanized the decryption that they could do prior to iOS8, and the unit cost probably is inconsequential.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Don't be fooled...

Apple and Google aren't doing this because of privacy concerns...

They're doing this because it costs them money to have to find and hand over data about their users to law enforcement officers all the time...

(Not to mention the money lost in sales if they didn't add encryption...)

You second argument (lost sales) is the one that matters, but it matters more than you think. Apple and MS have realised the impact of US law (something that has been hanging in the air for 10 years, but it's now starting to bite). Google is just singing along with the choir, but as primary drivers of personal data theft (IMHO, of course) they merely do that to prevent all the sheep running off at once (yes, I used the word "sheep" - not "sheeple"). There is a massive reckoning underway for the US when it comes to privacy, and it's not going to be pretty for their economy when it hits.

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Pint

Code Space

If the vast unbreakable encryption key is protected behind a 4-digit PIN (or worse, behind one of about a couple dozen common swipe-PINs, such as 7852), would this security concept still work if it was extended by one additional step so that the PIN was in turn conveniently protected behind a "Press Any Key To Display PIN" dialog?

Hmmmm...?

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Flame

I get it

This would mean following due process instead of hacking in whenever they want without oversight.

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Holmes

So the child abductor phones whom ... his counselor?

Seriously, the 90's are calling, they want their Clipper Chip debate back!

Politicians and Bureaucrats - if you don't abolish them they will come up with the same old stale brew OVER and OVER and OVER again.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So the child abductor phones whom ... his counselor?

Not quite.

Repressive countries tend to invent the ideas and the excuses for them, and the politicians in other countries who like the idea of repression then try to get them introduced in their countries.

It isn't only encryption. We now have Teresa May wanting a definition of terrorism so broad that David Davis points out it could cover him, since he is often critical of his own party; and Osborne demanding that charities be shut up to prevent them expressing anti-business ideas (did Welby's attack on Wonga affect your dividends, George?)

Lynton Crosby is in charge of the Conservative election campaign and is repeating his Australian strategy; make people frightened and then promise repression of naughty people who we're told might affect jobs or public safety*. Encryption, after all, prevents you hacking your political opponents as well as criminals, and it's probably the latter that weighs heaviest with British administrations.

This is just part of the neocon Emperor's new clothes; the plebs are getting restless, we must frighten them into subservience. Persuading them that unless the Government can read everybody's emails their children will be abducted by paedophiles is just part of the approach, an attempt to get the Mumsnet votes.

*Such as immigrants, Muslims and the Left, the latter defined as people who disagree with us.

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Re: So the child abductor phones whom ... his counselor?

"The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

-- Hermann Goering

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So the child abductor phones whom ... his counselor?

@Christoph,

Goering Hadn't got CNN to Contend With

Quoting a 70+ year old quote as though it applies to the modern age doesn't work. When Goering said that governments, especially one as viciously controlling as the Nazi regime, pretty much had complete control of what "News" people read or heard, or saw. That made it easy to pull off the trick he outlined.

Nowadays we're are generally a lot more cynical. There's also a whole heap load more media which is far harder for a government to control, not without giving the game away. Not even Putin can wholly hide reality from the Russian people; there's too much independent media. Not even the North Korean regime can achieve complete News isolation.

So, can our Western governments scare a population into accepting "draconian state powers"? Well perhaps to some extent, but they don't really have to. 9/11 happened. 7/7 happened. The Boston bombings happened. There's an appallingly continuous string of paedophillia cases being heard by the courts. And so on. Not even the craziest conspiracy theorist can get away with saying that it's all made up. So there is little need for a government to scare its population today; CNN, Twitter, etc et al report enough scary shit as is.

Conversley it is almost impossible for a government to stir up false stories without someone somewhere spotting it revealing the falsehood to all and sundry on Twitter, etc. The only way a government can get away with that these days is if the population is wholly predisposed to believe it. Hence the extensive use of nationalistic rhetoric in countries where someone is on the make (e.g. Salmond in Scotland) or is trying to cover up economic problems (Kirchner in Argentina) or is madly keen on staying in power (Putin in Russia). None of these are portraying false threats to their nations, rather they are citing non-existent injustices that their nation has purportedly suffered.

Retaliatory Quote

Joseph de Maistre said:

"Every nation gets the government it deserves."

which is perfectly true. Afterall the Nazis were voted into power. The internet survaillance systems in the US and elsewhere were put in place under the auspices of the elected politicians, all of whom are very reluctant to be having to answer questions about why a terrorist plot wasn't foiled before thousands died. The move by Apple et al may well give the politicians a genuinely plausible reason for being able to say "sorry, no can do" next time something nasty happens.

Whilst politicians are the default go-to when looking for someone to blame, Apple et al may well have miscalculated on the risk they're running. Suppose something nasty does happen and it transpires that it wasn't spotted because iPhones had been used to develop the conspiracy. Then what would the customers think then? Saying up front that no-one can look inside simply means that they won't be able to dodge the blame after a terrible event.

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Re: So the child abductor phones whom ... his counselor?

>Conversley it is almost impossible for a government to stir up false stories without someone somewhere spotting it revealing the falsehood to all and sundry...

As long as the pretense can be kept up until it doesn't matter any more. WMD in Iraq? Dodgy Dossier? Certainly in the UK we are reasonably used to having bombs go off, we've been living with terrorism and people dropping bombs on us for quite some time. The Americans get a bit emotional, because, well, they are emotional and no-one had ever had the face to return the favour of sending munitions abroad before. To be sure 9/11 was a tragedy, but they could have drawn a line under it and said that 2500 people dead is more than enough, rather than using it as an excuse to fight an unrelated war.

It's a PR war on both sides. The tech companies are pretending that encryption will keep your stuff private and the government is pretending that what the tech companies are doing actually does keep your stuff private. Tech would like more sales, Government doesn't want to its mass-surveillance programme thought to be still useful or impeded by what most people assume to be the law (needing a warrant) but in fact isn't.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So the child abductor phones whom ... his counselor?

As someone who is currently living in Hong Kong where protests are ongoing. I feel obliged to say something. I've lived here since 2008 and I have local relatives here.

Let me tell you first hand, yes many young people who are not surrounded by wealth are more cynical about the government, but unfortunately, it is not a decisive majority.

You are naive (I would say to the extreme) to think that it is almost "impossible" to stir up false stories by the government. The government in Hong Kong has done exactly that for the past 2 years and these people all use FB, twitter, whatsapp etc. Yes certain groups of people spotted their tactics, but they simply continue to deny everything related to such events and flip it around and turn it on it's head and accuse such people of various crimes or ulterior motives.

Not only have they stirred up false and misleading stories, there has been a campaign trail of them, always denying wrong doing or responsibility and turning it around at whoever is complaining, continuous condemnation and accusations on genuine pro-democracy groups. The setup and support of false democracy groups that claims to be genuine who then try to get public support by appearing to be on a moral high-ground (which we have now discovered does the exact opposite of what they preach in public). And basically, all the tricks you can possibly pull to be underhanded.

You have not seen how dirty politics get if you think "Every nation gets the government it deserves." all that statement says to me is that - actually the majority of the population is VERY suseptible propaganda and deceit.

While most people on TheRegister has the mind of a tech guy. You are actually just a minority group in society. Most people in society will not care what the government does so long as it does not interfere with their own lives directly. This means that the government can target policies at minority groups pretty much at will and they will be able to claim, after a campaign of tarnishing the reputation of that minority, that they have majority public support.

"The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

--Hermann Goering

This quote is true even today, that is how China is ruled which worries me because it has so many similiarities with groups that has been linked to cause wars and genocide in the history of man. This is also exactly what has been happening in Hong Kong since 2012 which is the underlying reason that has lead to today's confrontations here.

I hate to admit it, but sometimes, when you're in power, and you have a sizeable support from people with the power and money to control most of society (including the "underground"), you can actually say whatever you want and get away with almost anything and be above the powers of the law by turning morally wrong situations against the ones that it was inflicted upon by claiming that it is "debatable" simply because you appear to have some public supporters and then sweep it under the carpet.

I have thought about coming back to the UK, but you know, the UK is turning into China, so really it now makes little difference where I am, oppression has been increasing around the world for the worst.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So the child abductor phones whom ... his counselor?

@P. Lee,

"As long as the pretense can be kept up until it doesn't matter any more. WMD in Iraq? Dodgy Dossier?"

Don't you remember what happened back then? The Dodgy Dossier was hugely controversial from the very beginning. It was very far from being a successful pretense. One might argue that it succeeded in being a source of confusion, but it was definitely not successful at deceiving an entire population.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So the child abductor phones whom ... his counselor?

"You are naive (I would say to the extreme) to think that it is almost "impossible" to stir up false stories by the government"

Oh they can make them up alright, it's just they cannot succeed in convincing everyone that the stories are true. It is highly naive of a government to think that they can do that, and it will result in such a government ultimately getting into trouble.

"This quote is true even today, that is how China is ruled"

You've not properly read what Goering said, and you've not paid attention to what China is actually doing. Goering was referring to fabricating external threats from other countries and how easy it was to use that for political advantage. China is not doing that, instead it is using imaginery past injustices to lay claim to much of the Yellow Sea and the East and South China Seas and is selling that story to its population. It's also very keen on bigging up internal threats and uses that to do some pretty nasty things to anyone who has a different opinion. All governments rule by consent, even the Chinese one. If the the Chinese population ever gets totally fed up with the state of affairs then things will get very nasty. Afterall their last revolution is within living memory.

"I have thought about coming back to the UK, but you know, the UK is turning into China, so really it now makes little difference where I am, oppression has been increasing around the world for the worst."

You need to get a sense of proportion. You want to go to Tianamen Square and shout abuse at the Chinese government? Go ahead, but I don't rate your chances of sleeping peacefully in your bed that night. Do the same thing outside the Houses of Parliament in London and you will go home that night. In fact you'd probably get bored before anyone pays any attention to you.

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Re: So the child abductor phones whom ... his counselor?

"This is just part of the neocon Emperor's new clothes"

It is not just the repressive right, but also the repressive left. You see it all the time: "Think of the children! If we don't act now, our world will be too polluted/too hot for them to live in." Or "Think of the cute polar bear! If we don't act now, there won't be any ice for them to live on." And sometimes both use the same tactics. George H.W. Bush was part of the right, Barack Obama is part of the left. When Obama became president he did nothing to reverse the spying that Bush's administration started. Look at this article again, it is President Obama's administration, part of the left, that is crying about encryption.

The problem I see is some people think the left is always correct and they could never repress them. Whereas others think the right is always correct. The end result of both extreme is loss of freedoms. But far too many people blindly follow their political party and that is what leads to fewer rights. Fascism and communism have the same result. And both have "rules for thee and rules for me".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So the child abductor phones whom ... his counselor?

Can we please quash the myth that the Nazis were voted into power? They had a minority share of the vote but lots of jackboots on the street, and the Prussians who ran the military that were the de facto power "invited" Hitler to form a government, believing they could control him.

The German people, brought up to revere the Army, were betrayed by it. There's a lesson there. We can only trust politicians who demonstrate that they can be trusted. Politicians think they deserve trust by virtue of their position, when in fact they need to earn it. Telling the truth and reducing spin would be a good place to start. (It's working well for Dr. Merkel, for one.)

"Suppose something nasty does happen and it transpires that it wasn't spotted because iPhones had been used to develop the conspiracy"

Then the intelligent response is that if it had not been iPhones it would be something else. Countries spied on one another successfully for many years using no technology more advanced than microdots, one time pads and the public letter service. The problem with terrorism is why people do it in the first place. Focussing attention on the causes is more likely to yield results that trying to do something once it has started; suppose the paras hadn't been deployed against civilians in NI in 1972, for instance?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So the child abductor phones whom ... his counselor?

"Goering was referring to fabricating external threats from other countries and how easy it was to use that for political advantage. China is not doing that"

I'm sorry, but you talk as if you know, but you so obviously don't. They have been fabricating externals threats from other countries. Yes they have.

Just because you don't get much news about China in western media doesn't mean they haven't. In fact, they've been doing exactly that in Hong Kong as well! They believe the protestors today are backed by foreign powers and have been commenting on how "organise it is" that there must be some powerful foreign forces behind it! The Chinese governments have been sending almost daily announcements that "foreign forces should stop interfering in Hong Kong" and they've even been telling the HK public that they must enact some dubious "national security" acts because foreign powers are trying to use HK as a bridge head to topple the regime. This is all just HK alone, I haven't even mention they stuff they come up with within China itself to drum up it's nationalism.

The Chinese rule by deceit and fear. Consent? Sure, maybe within their closed elite cliques within the many factions that makes the Chinese Communist party.

"You need to get a sense of proportion. ...Do the same thing outside the Houses of Parliament in London and you will go home that night."

Sure, for now. Before I left the UK, at least I didn't have to be scared of what sites I visit, which chatroom I go on or whatever I do on the internet. Now even if I'm back in the UK, who knows what they're collecting? Theresa May still wants to expand more powers to turn the internet into total survalliance with real ID attached? and the Conservatives wants to "curb Human Rights acts"? How much more do they want to bring over from China?

Just those two headlines alone makes you think. If they don't like you, actually, they could do something with the information they'd be collecting and with laws they want to enact. It's not about "picking a fight". It's about standing up for what you believe and saying what you believe without the fear of prosecution either using legitmate oppressive laws or through the misuse of power with blackmailing, intimidation or outright "elimination" - like it or not, it happens in western democracies as well, you just don't hear about it. And you're telling me about proportion? How can you guarantee that they won't be misused either by this government or the one that comes afterwards? You can't! Learn from the mistakes of others.

Encryption and anonymity is the only thing that will protect civilians from being targeted by those in power. Sure it may also be misused by terrorists and criminals, well all I can say is that, the police have narrow vision. It makes their lives easy if encryption and anonymity doesn't exist, but at the same time it makes the lives of the "bad" sector of society easier to target people they dislike.

I'm a believer that the majority of terrorists aren't born a terrorist, as such there are ways to discourage people from falling into them. Prevention of any crime should be through education, dialogue and policies and not through oppression and removal of people's liberties.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So the child abductor phones whom ... his counselor?

It is important to note that the people calling for an end to digital data encryption and anonymity are the same ones that simply believe anyone using them should be presumed a criminal.

Big Red Flag. Hello? What happened http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presumption_of_innocence? Just because you don't see a reason why people would use encryption or be anonymous and you don't live in a country of oppression and fear. Don't ruin it for everyone. Especially when your job is not even made impossible, it's simply "more work".

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FAIL

Re: Arnaut the Clueless Re: So the child abductor phones whom ... his counselor?

"Obama is part of the left?....." Yes, despite yet more of your denial, Obama is on the left of the political spectrum in US politics. Whilst you could argue how far from the center he is on the left and whether he deserves the label of 'left' or 'Left', to argue he is not on the left just because the realities of US politics restrict how Left the policies he can enact are, is patently silly. I assume the real issue is he is not far enough to the Left to suit you.

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FAIL

Re: Arnaut the Clueless Re: So the child abductor phones whom ... his counselor?

"Can we please quash the myth that the Nazis were voted into power?...." No, because it's not a myth. In the massively fractured political process, and due to the Germans using proportional representation rather than a 'first past the post system', the Nazis were the party with the largest number of votes and, consequently, the largest elected party in the Reichstag after the November 1932 elections, and thus was given the position of Chancellor. Hitler's Nazis then saw an increase in votes in the German Federal Elections of March 1933, though still not an outright majority. Hitler did manage to gather enough support amongst other elected parties to gain the majority support he required to pass the Enabling Act (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enabling_Act_of_1933) which gave Hitler supreme power - nothing to do with the German Army. Please take your revisionist 'view' of history down the library for a reality check. If anything, Hitler's rise to power shows the danger of popularist socialist politicians (yes, National Socialist Party) and the risks of poroportional representation.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Arnaut the Clueless So the child abductor phones whom ... his counselor?

Any objective study of politics (and this includes American politics) shows that the terms left and right are virtually meaningless, they are simply crude propoganda markers on a very slippery scale. Elected parties are there to do the bidding of the elites that put them into power. Ketchup fortunes, Defense contractors, bankers, wealthy philanthropists, and tech companies contribute to both mainstream parties in the US and then use that to gain influence, Nothing new to see here.

You could argue that Obama has introduced some policies that would make a hard core republican core cringe such as universal health care, but he has maintained many of the repressive measures introduced by his "right-wing" brethren, I quote> the Patriot Act, G-Bay, the bombing and passive/active encouragement of civil unrest in Middle Eastern countries. the list goes on. Flaming against Putin and the Norks will come in handy later, once ISIS has been subdued.

Then you need to ask quid pro bono? Today, it is the security establishment, defense contractors, and leaders who want to pretend they are world statesmen that will bring peace in our time. The thin veneer of respectablity is cracking and one day, maybe, this Hegelian dialectic of left vs right, will be shown for what it truly is: complete bullshit. Don't expect any of these characters to start worrying about your privacy, individual rights and economic stablity any time soon, there's a war on for goodness sake, and we will win it by pouring billions and billions of dollars on smart bombs, mass surveillance, meta-data collection programs and the other wet dreams of political entrepreneurs who never fired a shot in anger,

So I suggest we all encrypt our phone traffic, tell them all to fuck off, convince them to go back to using publically accountable legal process and vote out the ones who won't. In case you have forgotten, the US founding fathers fought and died for those principles and would most likely recoil in horror at what is happening today.

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Due process

The judicial systems requiring a warrant and legal oversight were put in place to prevent abuse of the people and their privacy after 9/11 everybody used that as an excuse to remove as many rights as they could justify, over time 9/11 having been somewhat overused as justification for abusing the people we have seen 'think of the children' and just about any other excuse for continuing to treat the public as the main threat to "Democracy and the free world".

The truth is without having stopped the terrorist threat (cos it is apparently everywhere) the powers that be are reluctant to give up their abilities to spy on the public willy nilly so they have to keep renewing our fears.

I think it's time to stop the bollocks and get real, the trouble is the politicians are only too keen to support the cops because it gives them power too.

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Anonymous Coward

We say, they say.

We say, pee-dough-file.

They say, ped-o-file.

Which is the best? Vote UP for we & DOWN for they.

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Happy

Re: We say, they say.

They say, ped-o-file.

They must use a ped-o-meter to count ped-o-files

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Re: We say, they say.

Peter File?

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Anonymous Coward

Vargas: No! In any free country, a policeman is supposed to enforce the law, and the law protects the guilty as well as the innocent.

Quinlan: Our job is tough enough.

Vargas: It's supposed to be. It has to be tough. A policeman's job is only easy in a police state. That's the whole point, Captain - who's the boss, the cop or the law?

---Touch of Evil

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If the various agencies had acted within the law and with due process in the first place they wouldn't be having this problem now. No sympathy whatsoever.

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FAIL

Re: nonentity

"If the various agencies had acted within the law and with due process in the first place...." They did. Please go read up on the FISC and RIPA and then admit you are wrong to keep bleating that myth.

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FAIL

Re: Arnaut the Clueless Re: nonentity

"Incidentally on another page of El Reg....." Gee, why do I suspect the usual diversion off into a completely unrelated topic because you are failing in this one?

"....You failed again" Really? Shall we take a look at what you really, really, really want to proclaim as 'failure' (because you are failing in this current thread)?

"Thousands of innocent Brits have reportedly been mistakenly snooped on by UK police and public bodies......"So that's not the FBI, definitely not the NSA, and not eve the GCHQ then. You do know the difference, right? Probably not.

".....nearly 3,000 citizens....." Hmmm, so out of a population of approximately 50 million UK citizens, less than one percent were affected, and again - NOT BY ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE FBI, NSA OR GCHQ.

I would suggest it is you that has again failed.

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Anonymous Coward

Just throwing a hypothetical situation. Let's face it. Crooks are getting savvy. They're figuring out how to sniff out telltale signs of police action so as to cut and run before they swoop in. That's why animal fighting rings keep lookouts, why the idea of a mole in the police is tempting. The problem for the police is that they're bound by procedure, so the crooks keep watch on those procedures. So the police have to surprise the crooks in order to catch them in the act (otherwise the prosecutors have a tough time making a case stick). How can cops surprise crooks AND stick to the rules when the crooks are wise to the rules?

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Anonymous Coward

Fair comment as far as it goes, but criminal gangs have managed to infiltrate the Metropolitan Police for years without benefit of encryption. The last time there was a major investigation, despite all the evidence of serious wrongdoing, nobody got prosecuted.

Designing an uncorruptible, effective police force is presumably hard work needing a lot of input from games theorists, jurists, sociologists and psychologists. But politicians like easy answers and tend to believe they exist, since so few of them have exact knowledge of anything technical or scientific. So "ban encryption" falls into the well known category of solutions that are simple, obvious and wrong.

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What about encrypting calls?

I know the GSM standard supports call encryption, but anything that involves the carrier is automatically suspect.

Short of using VoIP, would it be possible for GSM and, in the near future, VoLTE calls to be encrypted on the phone? If the caller and callee's phones both supported it, with secure key exchange the call could be encrypted in transit so the carrier and spooks couldn't eavesdrop. Sure, they could break the encryption or use a MITM attack against the key exchange, but that would still raise the bar for them being able to capture everything we say.

That would be something that even the most ardent iPhone and Android fanboys would be happy to see Apple and Google cooperate on!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What about encrypting calls?

What about pwning the phones themselves? That's the trouble with encryption. The contents have to be DE-crypted at some point to be useable. Just snatch the contents BEFORE encryption or AFTER decryption. Pwn the phone, and you can do just that.

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Re: What about encrypting calls?

It's possible and already exists. The problem is convenience. Bear in mind that email has been clear text for many years and most people accept it and don't use PGP as an example.

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Re: What about encrypting calls?

To be fair, most people probably don't think about it at all.

They either assume emails are secure or they haven't given it any thought.

A shift towards encryption as default - anywhere it's feasible - could be a good thing.

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Re: What about encrypting calls?

Exactly right that the problem is convenience. That's why PGP has not been adopted by the masses, because no one has ever tried to make it smooth and simple for the average person.

If you have to fumble with settings or exchange keys in a way that isn't automatic to the process of making a call, end to end call encryption won't happen either. If Apple decided they WANTED to do this, I'm sure they could make it transparent - this assumes that the voice data sent by the phone is not altered or processed in any way by the carrier, as changing one bit would render it impossible to decrypt on the remote end.

However, being able to call only other iPhone owners securely buys very little - and is already possible with Facetime which already does proper end to end encryption - thus why this would need to be something done in cooperation with Google so the vast majority of phones could call each other securely (obviously WP and BB could use this too, but they wouldn't be necessary to its success)

As for pwning the phones....that's fine in theory, but how exactly is that supposed to happen? Since all known attacks against iOS require jailbreak, would the Feds ask nicely that everyone please jailbreak their iPhones? Not saying such an attack doesn't exist that isn't publicly known, or one couldn't be found, but it can't be blithely assumed.

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Facepalm

Americans are lucky!

Because they haven't any corrupt cop that could abuse the system for criminal purposes or for the sake of third parties. In the rest of the world this would probably cause a bloodbath, but not in the good ole USA!.

</sarcasm>

Now, seriously, if cops and FBI want to be able to keep a working witness protection program, they'd better forget about all this surveillance malarkey. And imagine what these tools they're requesting can do in the contexts of industrial espionage, blackmail, kidnappings... if there's a single 'rotten apple' in their staff.

It's has to be either utter stupidity verging on madness, or a plot by the Illuminatti.

Yes, you guessed it, I don't believe in the Illuminatti. :-)

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Anonymous Coward

LMFTFY

"what I'm worried about is, law enforcement insisting on unfettered, unconstitutional access to private correspondence is an indication to us as a country and as a people that, boy, maybe that pendulum swung too far."

FTFY.

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Where's the ball?

"If moves are made to get police backdoors installed in systems then the tech community is ready to go to court, and privately some are really rather keen to do so, since a trial would expose some hard truths about the government's case."

These trial transcripts would probably never see the light of day. National Suckerity and all...

I seem to remember reading that Johnny Law and his ilk can get court orders to get the back up, but not the data stored on the device? I hope this has changed.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Where's the ball?

"These trial transcripts would probably never see the light of day. National Suckerity and all..."

So paint them into a corner. Hint at the possibility of a corrupt insider and accuse that the witholding of that evidence is ITSELF a threat to national security, not only countering the initial coverup but also precluding any attempt to squelch the accusation since that can also be construed as a conspiracy by the corrupt insider. Now the government will lose either way...

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Anonymous Coward

What's wrong with a dead-man switch?

There's a web interface for remotely wiping a Windows Phone, and presumably Android has a comparable facility. It wouldn't be hard to write a dead-man switch that wipes your phone unless you reset it. Any fellow travellers who have not been rounded up could also do the honours. Anyone who gets caught like this is a small player.

I'm sure ASIS or MI6 could do better but don't expect much of the police force. The one time I had anything to do with police and technology they were amazed when I used keyboard shortcuts to step through suspect photos faster. I really don't think they'd be smart enough to pull the SIM immediately, and even if they were you could write a local dead-man switch that wipes the phone if it's started without a SIM.

The hardest part would be refraining from "NICE TRY, FLATFOOT! THIS MESSAGE WILL SELF DESTRUCT IN 30 SECONDS"

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Silver badge

INVESTIGATION

There are many attack vectors available. They range from, in the UK at least, "Give me your decryption key!" to super computer brute force, via checking the cloud/backup and technical eavesdropping etc. Just what proportion of offenses are detected by a casual, opportunistic trawl through a mobile telephone memory? I hope that serious investigation is rather more structured than that.

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