back to article UK Home Sec: Give us a snoop-around for WhatApp encryption. Don't worry, we won't go into the cloud

The UK government is once again suggesting encryption has no place in citizens' hands, in the wake of revelations that Westminster attacker Khalid Masood was using WhatsApp shortly before murdering pedestrians with his car, and stabbing a police officer to death. While she stopped short of threatening a Brazilian-style …

Joke

Re: Colour me surprised

Farr Out! at least hopefully

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Colour me surprised

Hey, the suit aint cheap and neither are our aviator style glasses

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Meh

Re: Colour me surprised

Being HomeSec used to be the job they gave the person who wanted to be PM and had a lot of influence but was too much of a nut job to be PM. Things went wrong...

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Re: Colour me surprised

Yes, being loopy doesn't necessarily negate puppetmaster skills

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Re: Colour me surprised

Vast numbers of comments on this thread presume that just because a desirable public key is in existence, it will leak. If this were the case the banking system would have crumbled years ago and your digital passports would all have long been cloned, yet mysteriously this isn't the case. "All a hacker needs to do is get into the system" comes from an absurdly simplified view that everything is stored online, no doubt on a Windows 95 box protected with "password" like you see on the telly. That's just not how it works, and (@MMalik et al) if you'd bothered to read my post you would see it's not what I described.

Properly designed, properly implemented secure systems can and do exist, and the fact we're in the era of both the "Internet of Shit" and some very high profile recent data breaches doesn't negate that. Both Manning and Snowden walked away with data because it was available to download, and because they were trusted to do so; that was the problem. You need to first get that shit offline, and then start with a complete lack of trust between all parties to do this properly. If nothing else I think we can agree we have that already.

Enough with the "what about the l33t hackerz" replies please. This isn't slashdot.

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Happy

Re: Colour me surprised

"it seems as though the home office is stuffed with wormtongues who whisper into the ministers ears and they dutifully plod out and spout forth this nonsense..."

Anyone across the pond care to remind me of the blind city cop who keeps getting sent into awkward stuations by "the commies on the police board".

You need to have been around in the late 60's.

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Re: perhaps itself encrypted with a key known only to law enforcement

If the history of spies teaches us anything, its that people will spy for foreign powers for ANY reason, and sometimes just for no real reason besides trying to get something over on the government.

Has anyone stopped to think that maybe these terrorists use these phones and apps specifically to divert attention from other things? "He used Whatsapp! It must've been for terrorist purposes, we need to be able to view everything anyone shares!" Meanwhile, the rest of his terroristic cell, none of whom have used Whatsapp before, are arranging the next attacker to use Facebook right before attacking. The next one will use Snapchat...then LinkedIn. Causing governments to demand more and more erosion of privacy, increasing distrust of government among the governed. That's the real tactic the terrorists are using here - drive a wedge between the people and the government, and the government will have all it can handle with its own people, letting the terrorists have free rein anywhere else they choose to operate.

And the government is dutifully following the script.

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Vic
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Re: perhaps itself encrypted with a key known only to law enforcement

The big assumption of course is that GCHQ have to be at least as good at keeping their private key secret as Alice and Bob are

No - you've made two assumptions :-

  • The one you mention
  • That the message sent to GCHQ is indeed the same as the one you sent to Alice

The first of these we know to be false straight off the bat - look at the CIA and NSA leaks to show how they actually aren't all that good at keeping secrets. And it gets worse once you need international cooperation - because that means giving all the keys to the Russians, the Syrians, the Iranians, the North Koreans, etc. Failure to do so would mean you don't get their cooperation - and guess where all the traffic goes instead.

The second is a fundamental flaw in that it requires the bad guys to play by the rules in order to catch them - so Bob sends a message to Alice that says "Attack at Dawn", whereas GCHQ gets one that says "Mary had a little lamb". Bob *swears* both messages have the same content.

So what we're left with is a system that is fundamentally less secure for everyone and no use whatsoever for catching bad guys.

Vic.

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Presumably someone briefs her on these things. Obviously they hate her.

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" Obviously they hate her."

And are aware she knows and understands less than a pissed galah.

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And are aware that the level of encryption now becoming widespread is a direct result of invasive government spying.

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Anonymous Coward

Same script, different face

This little speech was written in anticipation of this latest inevitable attack.

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Re: Same script, different face

I think they have generic statements ready to be updated and used within minutes. Like news outlets have obituaries etc for A-celebrities etc ready (it always used to be the first job a new intern had to do, update those to keep them current). Or very much something like this.

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Re: Same script, different face

I think they have generic statements ready to be updated and used within minutes.

That's how the execrable USA PATRIOT act was rammed through. It was written far in advance, and saved until an appropriate crisis occurred.

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Re: Same script, different face

"It was written far in advance, and saved until an appropriate crisis occurred."

Entirely correct.

Once again I can't recommend highly enough that you read Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine. If you get to the end without your blood boiling, you haven't read it properly.

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Re: Same script, different face

So, if he used sms or a call before the act (like for example the Paris attackers) we would have banned SMS?

Did they have a IQ 80 selection bar on this government or something?

Also, even if the message was not encrypted - who cares. What would have been interesting would have been his communications if he was under instructions. That is clear - he was not.

If he was under instruction from IS, Al Qaeda or another similar outfit, he would have chosen a different car. Modern consumer cars even if they look big and "brutal" have significant pedestrian protection as well several other features designed to minimize damage in an accident. It is extremely difficult to kill multiple persons with most of them "on purpose" (the results of the accident show that quite clearly too).

So the fact that we cannot decrypt that ONE message which she is using a reason for pulling the speech her predecessor long prepared in the drawer for her is irrelevant. The maimed would have still been maimed. The dead would have still be dead regardless of us knowing the content.

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Re: Same script, different face

"he would have chosen a different car"

He would indeed. Of the type spelled "lorry". (Sounds facetious, but it's not.)

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Re: Same script, different face

Ex-cyber security chief says Government is 'using' Westminster attack to grab unnecessary spying powers

Major General Jonathan Shaw said decrypting social media messages would see terrorists use other secure methods to communicate

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Same script, different face

"He would indeed. Of the type spelled "lorry"."

Simple solution for a government minister then - ban all cars and lorries. Even horses and carts can do real damage - so let's make it only pedal bicycles, rickshaws, and possibly put-puts are allowed to be used by the public.

A useful by-product will be the saving of many of the 1,732 lives lost to Great Britain road accidents in 2015. Not to mention the 186,209 casualties of all severities.

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Excuses

Anything serves as an excuse in this ridiculous debate. It is quite sickening.

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Headmaster

Not done any homework has she.

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She is just testiculating (talking bollocks while gesticulating wildly).

I wish I could ignore her.

Unfortunately, we live in a time when testiculating idiots like her set the rules under which normal people have to live.

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Key Escrow

Like the zombie that just keeps returning, key escrow is back on the radar.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Key Escrow

They could probably persuade trump to throw in the Clipper chip with the trade deal they're cooking up. It'll be a good fit.

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Childcatcher

Re: Key Escrow

"They could probably persuade trump to throw in the Clipper chip with the trade deal they're cooking up. It'll be a good fit."

So how do I load the driver for this Clipper chip thing into say OpenVPN? What happens if I don't?

Times have moved on since Mr Clinton was running the show across the pond. Nowadays I look sideways at things like iDRAC and iLO. No need to fear the Clipper - those beasts are far more scary.

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“there should be no place for terrorists to hide”

Which, unfortunately, also means there can be no place for passwords to hide during logins, no place for banking or health data to hide in transit, etc.

Apparently the UK and US government position is that the sheeple have to accept the 100% chance of being cyber crime victims in trade for protection from the .0001% chance of being affected by a terrorist attack.

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Anonymous Coward

Many wont accept it, get ready for a gov U Turn on this when they realise how impossible this will be, make good PR tho

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Apparently the UK and US government position is that the sheeple have to accept the 100% chance of being cyber crime victims in trade for protection from the .0001% chance of being affected by a terrorist attack.

I think it's more like we're all suspected criminals and need to be watched. But then if the governments watch us will they have any time left to watch the criminals?

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Go

Watching the criminals is easy - just install a small shaving mirror on each minister's desk.

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Given she wants "no place for terrorists to hide", will she also be banning wardrobes?

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Anonymous Coward

Many won't accept it - but not enough.

This will be forced on us under the cover of protection from terrorists and paedophiles. Anyone resisting will be labelled a sympathiser. But the biggest problem is that most people won't care.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Many won't accept it - but not enough.

Well many do care but also it would be next to impossible to enforce this type of law. The gov can try to force it on us but they dont even understand what they are doing in the first place so I see them backtracking soon.

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Deadworld ahoy

All crime isss committed by the living, therefore life itsself isss a crime. Prepare to be Judged!

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Given she wants "no place for terrorists to hide", will she also be banning wardrobes?

Presumably the wardrobes could be dismantled and recycled as bed skirts. Double win.

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Many don't accept it - and enough is enough and no more nonsense will be tolerated ‽ .

This will be forced on us under the cover of protection from terrorists and paedophiles. Anyone resisting will be labelled a sympathiser. But the biggest problem is that most people won't care..... Anonymous Coward

Howdy, AC,

Governments' bigger and rapidly expanding problem is that more than just a smarter few do care and would have both the inclination and the wherewithal to expose and deride the terrorist/paedophile justifications for such draconian self-preservationisms as all wannabe absolute emperor and glorious leader types profess and express to be vital for the greater general wellbeing, when it really revolves around everything staying very much the same in order to preserve the advantages and riches gained by that and those they take their orders from.

It aint rocket science to see and understand the smoke and mirrors desperately employed by such oxymorons to maintain an elite exclusive executive class of austere day traders releasing debt into systems to confiscate assets and destroy prime novel futures with the creation of ignorant slaves to fiat paper production .... aka Quantitative Easing for all those Ponzis on Steroids.

Please note there are no questions trailed there. Such things as are there mentioned, are as is. And they are as nectar of the gods to radical fundamentalists of every hue and cry, too.

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Big Brother

"Given she wants "no place for terrorists to hide", will she also be banning wardrobes?"

And curtains. You don't know what's going on behind drawn curtains. Could be terrorists. If you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear.

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get ready for a gov U Turn on this when they realise how impossible this will be

*cough* brexit *cough*

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Re: Deadworld ahoy

All crime isss committed by the living, therefore life itsself isss a crime. Prepare to be Judged!

Fooooolsss! You cannot kill what doesss not liiive!

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"Many wont accept it, get ready for a gov U Turn on this when they realise how impossible this will be, make good PR tho"

Ah, but it will take a while and a few banking scandals and even then they will never admit it was their fault

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Trollface

Sus Crims

In a Police State there are only two types of citizen; criminals and criminals that havent yet been caught, so watching everyone is only reasonable.

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Re: Deadworld ahoy

Now dont be daft there is Satan & all the devilish cohorts - not normally thought to be alive in our sense, then there are Zombies eating peoples Brains while the victim is alive (must be murder)

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Headmaster

Re: Deadworld ahoy

A zombie can kill you, but it can't 'murder' you any more than a run-away trolley car can 'murder' you.

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TRT
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Re: Fooooolsss! You cannot kill what doesss not liiive!

If it bleeds, we can kill it.

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so I write a letter in code, Rudd steams it open. sounds OK to me.

incidentally, how the actual fuck do we know matey boy used WhatsApp before the attack? a copper went nudge nudge wink wink to a tame journo? they've got his phone and WhatsApp installed?

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Ogi
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> incidentally, how the actual fuck do we know matey boy used WhatsApp before the attack? a copper went nudge nudge wink wink to a tame journo? they've got his phone and WhatsApp installed?

A far more interesting question, that few have asked so far. I asked myself the same question. From what I have gathered, the arrests in Birmingham happened directly because the attacker sent two whats-app messages to contacts at those addresses before he did his deed.

This leads me to think that they probably had the "metadata" (i.e. they were doing real time scanning of the whatsapp network to see who is messaging who), but are unable to decipher the messages themselves.

So now they want to decrypt the messages to find out if the people they arrested were in on the attack, or just unfortunate people who he texted last (maybe to say good bye or something).

Unless they knew in advance an attack was going to happen, I can only assume they are constantly monitoring who is talking to who on whatsapp, and (for the moment at least) it seems they can't actually read the message contents. Facebook can provide them with access to the network, but the enctyption is still client side "end-to-end".

Perhaps a future version of whatsapp will be crippled by fb, not unlike how MS crippled Skype after they purchased it.

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Anonymous Coward

"Perhaps a future version of whatsapp will be crippled by fb, not unlike how MS crippled Skype after they purchased it."

Wont people just move to Signal or Telegram?

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Silver badge

Wont people just move to Signal or Telegram?

No one would dare by government logic. If it's illegal to use these then by their standards, only crims will use them.

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Anonymous Coward

I think its unlikely they will make them illegal.

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Anonymous Coward

> "how the actual f*&% do we know matey boy used WhatsApp"

At this point, I simply assume that anything coming out of a conservative minister's mouth is utter bullshit.

He'd probably never even heard of WhatsApp

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Upvote for the thinking, but I don't think constant monitoring is implied. The information more likely came from his phone network's and ISP's logs of his activity (which they'll have demanded and the companies won't have made any serious efforts to oppose), and anywhere that may have led.

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