back to article Home Sec Amber Rudd: Yeah, I don't understand encryption. So what?

UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd has once again demonstrated she does not know how encryption works, this time by explicitly admitting it to delegates at a Tory party fringe conference where she also hit out at "patronising" techies that "sneered" at politicians. Speaking at a Spectator event, Rudd said: "It's so easy to be …

  1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Techies will continue to sneer.

    That is all.

  2. Excellentsword

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    Sneerers gonna sneer.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    "any of us who try and legislate in new areas, who will automatically be sneered at and laughed at for not getting it right"

    You're a politician framing laws that affect people's rights and possibly reputation, livelihood, standing in society and ultimately even their liberty. "Getting it right" is the minimum requirement of your job.

  4. Cynical Observer
    Trollface

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    To be fair, many techies will also try at least once, possibly even more than once to explain some of the obstacles that make the ministers demands unrealistic.

    And then - when we have been ignored for the umpteenth plus one time, then we're going to sneer.

    It's the wilful refusal to engage with the complexity of the issues at hand, the adamant insistence that "lords and masters" know better. And at that point, when we realise that we have met the ministerial equivalent of "Tim, Nice but Dim", then we sneer!

  5. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    Yep. While it is true that a politician does not need to know the mathematics behind encryption, especially the more head hurty public/private key arrangements, they do need to understand the basic concepts of security and reality. If a mechanism, any mechanism, is designed with a catch-all bypass which is "protected" by keeping this mechanism "secret" then the mechanism is no longer secure and this bypass mechanism will find its way out to big, bad world.

    Would Ms Rudd require that all door locks produced by locksmiths selling locks for use in the UK share a common master key, copies of which are stored in Ms Rudd's office, in all police stations (just in case), in the glove boxes of all emergency vehicles (just in case), in the cabinets of all utility companies (just in case), in the offices of local councils (just in case - terrorists and kiddie botherers y'know) and of course various very reputable* private security companies such as G4S (just in case one wants to outsource things).

    Ah... Ms Rudd would think this is a good idea because she is unfeasibly stupid and would lose an intellectual challenge against a tub of lard and can't of think anything beyond a police state. Damn. I think I may have sneered. My bad.

    * "Reputable" doesn't necessarily mean having a good reputation...

  6. Cynical Observer
    Stop

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    @Nick

    Would Ms Rudd require that all door locks produced by locksmiths selling locks for use in the UK share a common master key, copies of which are stored in Ms Rudd's office, in all police stations (just in case), in the glove boxes of all emergency vehicles (just in case), in the cabinets of all utility companies (just in case), in the offices of local councils (just in case - terrorists and kiddie botherers y'know) and of course various very reputable* private security companies such as G4S (just in case one wants to outsource things).

    For the love of [Insert Deity]

    Don't start giving her ideas! She's dangerous enough as it is!

  7. James 51 Silver badge

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    The TSA (aka the theif support agency) beat her to that a long time ago:

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/01/18/keysforge_will_give_you_printable_key_blueprints_using_a_photo_of_a_lock/

    https://www.wired.com/2015/09/lockpickers-3-d-print-tsa-luggage-keys-leaked-photos/

  8. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    Here's a novel idea: if you're going to make laws about something, either understand what it is you're making laws about, or find someone who does and get them to explain it to you. If you don't understand it, maybe you should wait to make a law about it until you do.

    Note:

    This applies on both sides of the Atlantic.

  9. rh587

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    Sneerers gonna sneer.

    Schneier's gonna Schneier?

  10. nijam Silver badge

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    We sneer, not at their ignorance, but at their reluctance to understand the issue - no matter how straightforwardly it is explained - because it does not give the answer they want.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    FFS. She is part of the same Tory Cabinet that do their own sneering, organising, backstabbing via encrypted WhatsApp messaging, against the clueless deadwood Maybot.

    Johnson has admitted to using WhatsApp messaging for such purposes, in a Guardian article.

  12. Wensleydale Cheese Silver badge

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    I'll just leave this here:

    Speculation that Amber Rudd wants to be PM

    What are her leadership chances? She came fifth in the latest poll of party members, with 7.5%, after Boris (21%), Jacob Rees-Mogg (15%), David Davis (14%) and Other (18%).

  13. MyffyW Silver badge

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    Amber, hun, you need to realise that not knowing how something works is fine. Encryption is really complicated - that's why you should listen to experts about it. More than one expert. From more than one think-tank. And they'll disagree. And that's fine too. Because the societal issues are almost as complicated as the technology. And once you've accepted that "it's complicated" is a perfectly reasonable answer, maybe you'll be less of a knee-jerk totalitarian and be more in tune with the tolerant traditions that are the best part of this country.

  14. Mark 85 Silver badge

    @MyffyW -- Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    It could be she is listening to "experts"... the "experts" at the agency that wants the backdoors and thus will give her slanted info to get what they want.

  15. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer. I think I get her. She simply does not care

    About your security,

    About the security of anyone's data.

    About the security of anyone's money.

    She's talking out her a** doing this "for the greater good."

    She simply does not care.

  16. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Re: @MyffyW -- Techies will continue to sneer.

    "It could be she is listening to "experts"... the "experts" at the agency that wants the backdoors and thus will give her slanted info to get what they want."

    Nailed it!

  17. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer. I think I get her. She simply does not care

    "She simply does not care."

    The odd thing is she seems to care that she's sneered at - and still doesn't try to work out why.

  18. Chemical Bob Bronze badge
    Coat

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    Objects in mirror are sneerer than they appear.

  19. JimboSmith Silver badge

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    Reminds me of an ex-boss who encrypted his Android phone as soon as he found out it was possible.. Having done so he was then offered a newer phone which he picked up from the store. Sadly he promptly forgot the password and asked me to unlock it for him. When I explained that I couldn't do that he said I wasn't making any friends with that answer. It took two other people and Googling before he believed me.

    We sat around trying to help him remember his password offering potential categories he might have chosen from. After going through half a dozen we hit paydirt with first place he went on holiday. We then went to the pub and he bought a couple of rounds as a thank you. The main reason he was desperate to have access to his phone was because it had the dates of his Wedding Anniversary and Wife's Birthday.

  20. gnasher729 Silver badge

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    "then the mechanism is no longer secure and this bypass mechanism will find its way out to big, bad world"

    Should be particularly significant to Amber Rudd, because the recent NHS disaster was created by code that found its way from the NSA to the big, bad world.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    ... and in Australia

    (where the laws of mathematics do not override Australian "law")

    I'm sneering at you Malcolm

  22. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "What are her leadership chances?"She came fifth in the latest poll, with 7.5%, Other (18%).

    and let's not forget the bit about "Her majority fell from 4,796 to 346, "

    Turning a safe Conservative seat into a marginal is quite a feat, but one she seems to have managed with ease. One might think her constituents had taken a dislike to her. A bit more and she might not be there at all.

    The Guardian says “Don’t Leave the Tories Rudd-erless!”

    Personally I'd quite happily leave it so.

  23. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    "Speculation that Amber Rudd wants to be PM"

    Amber who? another faceless politician. Cant we do like the US and just elect some celebrity?

    (obviously not a bigoted umpa lumpa)

    Preferably someone who didn't want the job.

  24. Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    "Would Ms Rudd require that all door locks produced by locksmiths selling locks for use in the UK share a common master key, copies of which are stored in Ms Rudd's office, in all police stations (just in case), in the glove boxes of all emergency vehicles (just in case), in the cabinets of all utility companies (just in case), in the offices of local councils (just in case - terrorists and kiddie botherers y'know) and of course various very reputable* private security companies such as G4S (just in case one wants to outsource things).".

    Y'mean like the TSA require all your luggage to have locks with master keys if you travel to the States?

    Can't think what could possibly go wrong with that *stares at kits of TSA master keys for sale*

    Don't forget, if you've nothing to hide you don't need privacy.

  25. Archtech Silver badge

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    If those are the only choices, Other can be sure of my vote. Sight unseen.

  26. Archtech Silver badge

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    MyffyW, I couldn't agree more.

    But would you please, please, PLEASE stop writing "societal"? The word you want is "social". Otherwise I shall get really aggravatatated.

  27. hplasm Silver badge
    Holmes

    Re: Objects in mirror are sneerer than they appear.

    In the case of politician's mirrors:

    Objects in mirror are thickerthan they appear.

  28. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    @Arctech, what's wrong with societal?

    Societal : of or relating to society, esp human society or social relations

  29. Piro

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    You have one downvote. I didn't know Amber Rudd read El Reg. It seems way out of her field.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    "*stares at kits of TSA master keys for sale*"

    From experience, luggage does get checked by the TSA. (We had a suitcase delayed by half a day because we changed planes and our suitcase got looked at by them, and didn't make it to our flight.)

    Ultimately, it all boils down as to whether you can check a suspicious case without opening it, and if not, *how* do you allow access to the various agencies whilst providing security to passengers.

    For the record, I know my cases have been rifled through in other countries, and the TSA is the only agency that have left a polite note saying they had done it. (No idea what they were looking for.)

    I've never lost anything from hold luggage, but then I'd never intentionally put something valuable in there....

  31. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
    Trollface

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    Out of curiosity, what's the legal position of having primed mouse-traps in your luggage?

  32. Archtech Silver badge

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    The two words appear to mean exactly the same, and "social" is perfectly adequate. There is no need for another (inevitably longer and more important-sounding) word.

    It's rather like "orientated" (as in "object-orientated") which is just a longer, more pompous version of "oriented". Strictly speaking there is a small difference, in that "oriented" means "pointed towards", whereas "orientated" means "made to point towards". On that basis, too, "oriented" is the better choice.

    The general principle is this:

    "Broadly speaking, short words are best, and the old words, when short, are best of all".

    - Sir Winston Churchill (speech on receiving the London Times Literary Award, November 2, 1949)

  33. Gio Ciampa

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    "From experience, luggage does get checked by the TSA."

    Seconded from here - the last time I was out that way they left a leaflet in my luggage on the way home... right next to the one that they'd left on the way in (that I'd deliberately placed so that it was they first thing they'd see on opening it...)

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    ...and you're a keyboard warrior who who thinks sneering is useful? Amusing on a site like this, yes, but don't fool yourself into thinking you're having any influence. She doesn't understand encription, you don't understand politics - a dialogue of the deaf.

  35. kpanchev

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    What are her leadership chances? She came fifth in the latest poll of party members, with 7.5%, after Boris (21%), Jacob Rees-Mogg (15%), David Davis (14%) and Other (18%).

    God forbid!!! Boris???? Seriously?!?!?

  36. Pedantic

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    No No! words are good, more the merrier, make us think! Otherwise will end up with 1984's "double good!" if you thought it was better than "good"

  37. Morat

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    Was a couple of rounds of drinks enough to secure him from identity theft? :)

  38. Agamemnon
    Coat

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    I think you have some extra tatas in your aggravation.

    * Mines the one with extra tatas.

  39. Agamemnon

    Re: Techies will continue to sneer.

    Ah. The problem with your statement is that Techies DO understand politics.

    It is a very simple, childish, and systemically broken system filled with arrogant gits that couldn't manage a career doing something actually Useful (like mowing my lawn, or refactoring some code I wrote for my better half some years ago, she relies on and I want to retire for the New Shiny thing I wrote).

    We understand, we understand Quite Clearly.

    The lack of clarity is one-sided.

    Go ahead, ask me about James (FaLaLaLa Silicon Valley's Problem And Theeeeey Woooont Heeeeeelp Meeeee Break Their Stuff FaLaLaLa) Comey.

    The thought: "I can do my job, your job, AND your boss' job, maintaining my quality of work, ex increasing that of yourself And your Boss by an order of magnitude, BEFORE I have to add espresso to my day." is largely, where the Well Deserved Sneering comes from.

    *Sneer.* -sniff- *SNEEEEEER.*

  40. wolfetone Silver badge
    Facepalm

    It'd be easy to say that, once Amber Rudd leaves the Home Office it'll be Rudd-erless. But I think it's already there with her onboard.

  41. TRT Silver badge

    I think they have a few anchors on board.

    *darned autocorrect.

  42. jake Silver badge

    Sounds to me like ...

    ... she's going overboard.

  43. Cynical Observer
    Coat

    @wolfetone

    ... Presumably why any initiative will be pilot lead?

  44. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Rudd-er or not, the Home Office has a clear direction

    Experts: 'You are going to crash into the rocks!'

    Amber: 'You are just a bunch of sneering "experts", what do you know? Full speed ahead!'

  45. TRT Silver badge

    Re: Rudd

    She's just banned the sale of acid to under 18s. So it is vitally important that you take a form of photo ID with you if you want to avail yourself of the standard condiments next time you go to the chippy.

    Either that or she's some sort of flatulent, calcium-based life form that's managed to infiltrate the corridors of power.

  46. macjules Silver badge

    Re: Sounds to me like ...

    "... she's going overboard."

    ... runs to assist with a lead-weighted lifebelt.

  47. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    Re: Rudd

    She's just banned the sale of acid to under 18s.

    Yes, just a few simple thought experiments show how unworkable this particular knee-jerk is, even if she is just talking about strong acids (rather than, for instance, vinegar, lemon juice, or rainwater)

    For example, a sixteen-year-old can legally ride a 50cc scooter on a provisional licence. All such modern scooters have electronic ignition, running off a 6V or 12V lead-acid battery. Will she therefore be making it illegal for under-18s to purchase such scooters, or will she make it so that only adults can buy the batteries? In this case, will it also be illegal for someone over 18 to buy acids, and hence acid-containing batteries for under-18s (in the same way as buying alcohol for under-18s is). To further complicate things, when you buy a replacement battery for a scooter, you often get the battery and acid in separate containers, and have to mix them.

    Assuming that the group that Ms Rudd is attempting to target are under-18s using strong acids as weapons, where exactly does she think they are getting them from? Bear in mind that the most likely common source for strong acids is the sulphuric acid in car/bike batteries, how does she think making the purchase illegal is going to restrict access to these ubiquitous batteries? It's not as if someone who is going to attack another person with acid is going to balk at the idea of nicking a battery out of a car.

  48. Thoguht Silver badge
    Trollface

    Re: Rudd

    Has she remembered hydroxic acid? That should definitely be banned too.

  49. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    Re: Rudd

    I'm more worried about dihydrogen monoxide. Did you know that ALL terrorists have dihydrogen monoxide in their blood!

  50. Lotaresco Silver badge
    Boffin

    Re: Rudd

    "Has she remembered hydroxic acid? That should definitely be banned too."

    She should be made aware that hydroxic acid spontaneously converts to the much stronger carbonic acid when exposed to the atmosphere. It's like a gateway drug to strong acids.

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