back to article Former GCHQ boss backs end-to-end encryption

Former GCHQ director Robert Hannigan has spoken out against building backdoors into end-to-end encryption (e2) schemes as a means to intercept communications by terrorists and other ne'er do wells. UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd has criticised mobile messaging services such as WhatsApp, that offer end-to-end encryption in the …

Pah.

He's just an expert, what could he possibly know that the Classicists and PPE politicians don't?

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Re: Pah.

The problem I have with his concept of 5eyes and tech companies working together to allow the circumvention i.e. bugging the device rather than backdooring the actual apps is that we will then end up with mass circumvention because these arseholes just cannot help themselves.

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Re: Pah.

Don't forget all the Lawyers who become politicans. They apparently know everything about everything including Encryption. (like hell they do)

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Re: Pah.

" ... what could he possibly know ... "

About the same as anyone with an A Level/High school maths qualification - back doors are not compatible with secure encryption.

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Ooh he's done it now, not singing from the same hymn-sheet as the PM is not good for your personal advancement prospects.

I wonder if he likes wearing handcuffs whilst lying in a suitcase in the bath?

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I thought that particular fetish was reserved by law for sitting Tory MPs.

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Anonymous Coward

"I thought that particular fetish was reserved by law for sitting Tory MPs."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Gareth_Williams

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But he's a former GCHQ boss. Haven't you noticed that people who have retired / no longer depend on approval of others (public or government) suddenly start talking sense. Why even politicians suddenly become seemingly rational once they're no longer subject to party whips and looking good to the electorate. (Well, sometimes).

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But he's a former GCHQ boss.

And she's been a (bloody awful) HomeSec for quite a while before her current position.

Taunting an active or former spook is daft. Taunting the (active or former) boss spook is insane.

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But will our current shower of shit glorious leaders have the sense to listen to someone who actually knows about the issue, or do their usual dance to the red-tops' bile-spewing?

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Therein is the problem. The politicos think they know everything and won't listen to reason under any circumstances. It's universal and seems to be the same thought (or what passes for thought) processes in all the countries.

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And whichever option you follow, any terrorist with half a brain will be completely unaffected anyway, as they will use their own end-to-end encryption over whatever public service they want. We used to call them codewords, but nowadays there's no reason they can't be PGP-encrypted short messages converted to a textable alphabet.

The ones you "catch" with laws like this are the ones you could have caught anyway if you were even half-listening.

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Lets face it, most (all?) of the recent incidents did not rely on secure encrypted communications. The talking point was the 1st of the bridge nutters who sent a WhatsApp message shortly before, and even that was eventually traced and the recipient has AFAIK no terrorist connections at all.

So really we are mostly looking at a few angry and often not terribly bright people cracking, people who often were already known because folk at the mosque had reported them as trouble makers. So only a moron would put the majority at risk of cybercrime due to the actions of a minority where such a law would have made no difference.

Oops, we voted for them :(

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"The ones you "catch" with laws like this are the ones you could have caught anyway if you were even half-listening."

I think it's more a case of "the ones you catch like this are only criminals because something that used to be legal is now declared illegal"; actual dangerous people aren't going to be deterred and are unlikely to be caught by this kind of TLA land-grab/security theatre.

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Encryption is overwhelmingly a good thing," Hannigan said. "It keeps us all safe and secure. Throughout the Cold War and up until 15 years ago it was something only governments could do at scale."

It's this that they (politicos) hate. They've been accustomed to a populous that they can spy on. Now they cant, and they don't like it. They, via their agencies, used to have the power to eaves drop at will. Now, normal people who can install software or download an app have the power to stop them. Nothing will scare them more than losing their powers over us.

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Oops, we voted for them :(

Speak for yourself.

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@Lost all faith, I think you'll find that the opposition is also largely in favour of this nonsense. Along with lots of other, different nonsense.

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@ Charlie Clark

That was my point exactly: the majority of "us", as in "UK citizens", voted for parties with a strong authoritarian bent and a distinct lack of technical knowledge on both sides of the house.

Some of us might have voted Lib-dem precisely because they don't want the big brother state, but finding others who have a clue is difficult.

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Gimp

"Oops, we voted for them :("

Not quite.

If you live in the UK you voted for the party that appointed the current Home Secretary.

You didn't vote for the cabal of senior civil servants, starting with the nest of vermin at the Home Office, who have (and continue to want) to do this.

That group is how 9 Home secretaries in at least 3 different governments spout the same line on this subject.

BTW Hannigan's Degree is "Classics" from Wadham College.

He started learning why backdooring encryption a-very-bad-idea after he took over as head of GCHQ, presumably when someone who does know what this stuff involves sat him down and explained it to him.

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"Oops, we voted for them"

Speak for yourself. I told my MP that I wouldn't be prepared to vote for him as long as May remained in charge. She has, I didn't. He isn't.

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"I think you'll find that the opposition is also largely in favour of this nonsense."

One didn't have to vote for them either.

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Re: "Oops, we voted for them :("

"If you live in the UK you voted for the party that appointed the current Home Secretary."

That, sir, is a libel.

There seems to be an odd notion about that because a (possibly slender) majority voted for something or someone then everyone must have done.

It's the same mode of thinking that enables Brexiteers to assume that the whole country voted for their madcap idea. They had a slender majority and it's very doubtful that if the referendum were to be repeated they'd actually achieve any majority at whole and yet they and, it seems, almost all the HoC are acting as if they have the entire country behind them.

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I think you'll find that the opposition is also largely in favour of this nonsense

You know, I have difficulty imagining that the current leader of the opposition even knows what a computer is...

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Anonymous Coward

Bluntly...

Not in a million years, would I ever vote/voted for someone with the cluelessness/characteristics of Theresa May and Amber Rudderless is an even worse mouthpiece (who seems currently being hidden from view. The Tories seem to be positioning her as some sort of natural successor to May).

If you voted Tory at the last election and work in Tech (especially specialising in Security/Encryption), you must be even more clueless than May/Rudd combined.

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Mushroom

There's another downside too. The resources ploughed into breaking encryption, are resources that can't be used for (eg) following up on reports that Dodgy Bob has been going around muttering about 'killing all the infidels', and maybe someone should pop round and check he's not trying to make a bomb out of tin foil and Swan Vestas...

The trouble with breaking encryption, or tapping more lines of communications, is that it just increases the size of the haystack that the security services have to search through.

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Re: @ Charlie Clark

That was my point exactly: the majority of "us", as in "UK citizens", voted for parties with a strong authoritarian bent and a distinct lack of technical knowledge on both sides of the house.

That's because the average PITS (Person in the street) thinks "something orter be done". And our elected politicians then know that something has to be done but, like the PITS, is (generally) utterly clueless about what.

So, instead they listen to the senior Civil Service types who, in general, are maximalist control-freaks.

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You know, I have difficulty imagining that the current leader of the opposition even knows what a computer is...

Of course he does. It's something his admin staff use to prepare his speech printouts. And do something called "FaceTwit".

Which, apparently, the Youth are dead keen on.

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Don't suggest that!

"You can't un-invent end-to-end encryption… you can't legislate it away," he added.

"Challenge accepted!" - T. May

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Re: Don't suggest that!

' "The challenge for governments is how do you stop the abuse of that encryption by the tiny amount of people who want to do bad things, like terrorists and criminals," Hannigan said.'

Stongly-worded EULA?

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Well if he was in a position that meant anything he definately wouldn't have said what he said.

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"I don't advocate building in backdoors," Hannigan said. "It's not a good idea to weaken security for everybody in order to tackle a minority.

Odd, given the events back in 2010. It might be worth noting that whilst he wasn't in charge of GCHQ at the time, Hannigan still held a senior position within the Foreign Office (Director-General of Defence and Intelligence from March onwards that year).

Some people here might also recall that GCHQ were spending their time seven years ago trying to hack the SIM card manufacturer Gemalto and effectively install their own backdoors by attempting to steal the encryption keys.

So much for playing nice with the telcos.

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Identify the problem correctly first before embarking on any wrong course of solutions.

Whenever governments are the standing stagnant problem, why ever would tech and telcos think to help them. Such would be a madness confirmed and proven in supposed and presumed to be intelligent bodies.

"I don't advocate building in backdoors," Hannigan said. "It's not a good idea to weaken security for everybody in order to tackle a minority.

The best solution is to "target the people who are abusing" encryption systems and go after the smartphone or laptops they are using.

Hmmm. What a very odd thing to say about simply complex tools. Target the abusers, not their systems of administration, for such is what always permits the guilty of politically incorrect and inept elite classless crime to wander and wonder free in a cloud of contrived corrupt immunity. And that is a major problem and present currency for resolution and revolutionary change, methinks.

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Pint

Re: Identify the problem correctly first before embarking on any wrong course of solutions.

"Whenever governments are the standing stagnant problem, why ever would tech and telcos think to help them."

Sadly AMFM, Although the time seems to approach, I've not seen sufficient torches or pitchforks about for the stock market denizens to start separating themselves from the politicians. In fact that effort may be impossible since the line betwixt the groups is far too blurred of late.

" Target the abusers, not their systems of administration, for such is what always permits the guilty of politically incorrect and inept elite classless crime to wander and wonder free in a cloud of contrived corrupt immunity."

Looking at the way things unfold today in Africa is a lesson on this front. Accumulate enough liquid capital, and lubricate your way to invisibility ..... Sadly corruption is the dandelion of political farming.

And for the record sir, your translation devices are becoming much better tuned.

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Pint

Re: Identify the problem correctly first before embarking on any wrong course of solutions.

Amanfrommars, is that really you?

You're starting to make sense... Check those meds buddy.

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No longer in post -> Can speak truthfully

I don't want to smear Hannigan as being particularly political, so I do have my tongue somewhat in cheek when I point out how curious it is that we seem to hear common-sense, unvarnished truthfulness only from *retired* admirals, generals, civil servants and government advisors. The ones still in the job act as if their families would be murdered in their beds if they simply spoke honestly.

I cut Hannigan some slack, though (as if he could care less) because he is a thoughtful fellow, smarter by far than any of the political weasels he had to deal with. Perhaps, like his predecessor—another exceptionally sharp chap, Iain Lobban—he'll take some of his hard-won and above all *reality-based* experience and knowledge into the world and make good use of it there. Getting the imbeciles in Westminster to understand the basics of encryption and why they simply cannot have their bloody stupid backdoors would be worthwhile ... as the man said: you just cannot uninvent things.

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Re: No longer in post -> Can speak truthfully

The ones still in the job act as if their families would be murdered in their beds if they simply spoke honestly.

Anybody in the civil service is (by the civil service rules) required to be strictly impartial on political issues. If they pointed out that politicians are either clueless or lying gits then they'd be fired quite quickly.

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Re: No longer in post -> Can speak truthfully

We need a bulletproof whistleblower law so people who know can speak out in just that situation.

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Re: No longer in post -> Can speak truthfully

But the opponent is the government itself. As in they MAKE the laws. Anything you can make, they can UNmake (or work around). When your opponent is at that level, laws pretty much can't help you.

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Unhappy

Re: No longer in post -> Can speak truthfully

>>The ones still in the job act as if their families would be murdered in their beds if they simply spoke honestly.

*cough*David Kelly*cough*

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Hand up who thinks Amber Rudd will listen...

...anyone? No, anyone? Surely they must be someone? Oh c'mon, it's Amber, y'know, your old pal Amber...Amby Amber, Amber wamsa....Ambaaaaaa, you know her, police red tape remover, good old Amber.....anyone?

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Re: Hand up who thinks Amber Rudd will listen...

She very nearly was forced to listen to the good people of Hastings : a couple of hundred votes shy of having her arse handed to her on a plate. Humiliating for a holder of one of the great offices of state. Amazed she has the brass neck to carry on spouting shite. When the current 'propped up by fundamentalists' mess collapses, she's outta here....

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Unhappy

"a couple of hundred votes shy of having her arse handed to her on a plate. "

Indeed. Both her and the Labour candidate had impressive turnouts.

However there seems to be a view forming that when Mrs May is allowed to walk away her successor will be from the 2010 intake of new MP's, untainted by the decades of feuding (and back stabbing on the part of a certain M. Gove Esq) of the previous generation. they of course will then blame any failures on Brexit delivery on her.

So you can bet Ms Rudd fancies her chances to be the next "First among equals"

Her Wikipedia photo shows she has the requisite fanatical gleam senior civil servants in the Home Office love in their Ministers. Time will tell if this is the gleam of Messianic fervor, or the mind numbing fear that she's hopelessly out of her depth talking about any of her brief, without the natural arrogance of ignorance that a public school education usually imparts.

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Devil

Sock-Puppet..

I'd love to see a report on how many times each MP has voted against the party whip Chairman May.. (Data here?)

I'd put money on Amber Rudd coming bottom of that ranking.

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I think Tom Scott sums up the argument very nicely https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CINVwWHlzTY

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progress

I heard the interview. It was striking - the interviewer understood the issues for a change. Hannigan was honest about the problem and its complexity. And basically he said what we've known for ages - it's not the data. It's the metadata which matters: who's connecting to whom.

When crypto can reliably hide your end points, things will start getting interesting again…

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Re: progress

It's extremely hard to hide electricity, especially in an environment where electricity costs money and efficiency is a go word.

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Re: progress - hiding endpoints

If you use Usenet newsgroups then you can hide the destination of a message. A newsgroup message is a one to many broadcast. If a busy newsgroup is used then it becomes almost impossible to detect who is the intended recipient.

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A Better and Beta Use for Usenet Newsgroups and Net News Groupies

Howdy, Duncan Macdonald,

And when is a secret no longer a secret? Whenever it is a general knowledge being freely shared in proactive reactionary circles? Such is then a virtually explosive inconvenient truth and unfortunate unfolding reality for the Few in Command and Control Central who be practically reliant upon mass ignorance to terrorise subjects and nations and wield punitive power with vitriol and wicked words painting nightmare worlds in and for assisting compliant and complicit media operating machines to present as normal and natural derivatives in a hedged future portfolio of their choosing.

Change the putrid input, deliver novel output. New tales and trails to follow will easily remove and destroy corrupt drivers, and that is great abiding fear that haunts all perverse and exclusive secretive executive and/or secret executing systems of maladministration.

And nowadays do such flash systems swim against a constant crashing series of tsunami tides?

Yes …. they do. Oh dear, what a great crying shame blame game has the grand media hosted reality play become?

Where has all the Super Vision gone?

What Novel Bigger Pictures Shows and Great Games Plays does El Reg have Inhouse Secret Secured Store to share? Or is IT truly a case of most everyone simply waiting on, and in some cases even waiting upon the Adventure and Arrival of …. well, just for now, let us imagine and name such a Utility Facility and Public Service and Private Pirate Operation …… AI Special Deliveries.

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Trollface

This isn't the problem you're looking for

Al-Qaeda learned pretty quickly how to get off the grid and in the end Bin Laden was only caught when the relevant people in the Pakistani military decided to stop hiding him. And Four Lions highlighted how quickly current "best practices" filter down to even the biggest idiots.

Blanket surveillance of the population is at best a money pit and at worst an accident waiting to happen: all that data will have value to someone whether they're in the government or not.

But I have a feeling that, since the deal with the DUP, the security forces may soon find that they're facing a very different and better organised threat.

I'm off to put on my scrambler suit…

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This isn't the problem you're looking for

It's easier to get off the grid when you live in the sticks (I wouldn't call Afghanistan or Pakistan examplars of modern technology), but what about modern Western society for which the Internet and other forms of electrical communication are increasingly essential?

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