back to article Here we go again... UK Prime Minister urges nerds to come up with magic crypto backdoors

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has reiterated calls for a special magic version of encryption to be developed by technologists so law enforcement can access everyone's communications on demand – and somehow engineer it so that no one else can abuse this backdoor. Speaking at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland …

Anonymous Coward

@stargatesg7

Back in the day there was a forum (remember those!) called alt.talk.bollocks

This would have fitted there perfectly.

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Criminals are generally not all that smart, and suicidal terrorists are especially not-smart. However, most of the suicidal religious lot have worked out that the secure way to communicate is by meeting up face to face.

Once an attack is in progress, comms don't really need to be secure; if you assume that the security services aren't on the ball enough to know who all the participants are (a good bet if your little jihadi plot has gotten to live state), then you can also assume that they aren't going to understand the comms chatter quickly enough to make any difference.

That was the assumption the French terrorists made: they used completely unencrypted SMS to start and coordinate their attacks, and over that short time scale it worked.

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Calm down @StargateSG7,

You aren't going to do any of that really, are you. No.

what you'll do is either choose to use the apps we all know are probably broken, or chose not to.

Calm down duck, you look daft.

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@AC

You'll be hearing from his "SERIOUS LEGAL FIREPOWER" shortly, I imagine.

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Re: The crux of it.

An excellent example, as it shows not only the essential futility, but also how much damage it does - once the young toe rag grows up enough to start abiding the law they are effectively excluded from meaningful interaction with society, and thus less likely to ever contribute to that society.

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Surely the government can propose a bill to ban prime numbers?

Forbid any number (especially large ones) from being divisible only by themselves and 1. And if they persist in being undivisible, just jail them and miss them out when counting.

Thinking more, it is just the odd numbers which cause problems, so just ban all odd numbers?

That would put a stop to this strong encryption malarkey.

As our antipodean cousins are wont to say, "What could possible go wrong"?

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Thinking more, it is just the odd numbers which cause problems, so just ban all odd numbers?

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It's odd because it's the only one that's even...

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Re: Like a shell company?

That's been done before -- but it's a really hard thing to hide, which is why we know about it.

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@ StargateSg7

Bob, is that you?

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Biometrics

Can someone explain why this can't be solved by biometric security? Just as my fingerprints open my phone, Apple could preinstall the fingerprints of federal judges who could also open it, should they grant themselves a warrant to do so. How is that a backdoor?

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Re: Biometrics

So all you would need is a copy of a federal judges fingerprint to unlock any iPhone in the world? Sounds foolproof...

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Re: Biometrics

Indeed. After all the US government is great at keeping such information secure. Just look at OPM who have never been hacked and had 19 millions peoples records (including fingerprints) taken.

And we need a rolling my eyes icon.

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Re: Biometrics

Apparently you're under the impression that biometrics are foolproof. That's a mistaken impression.

Even if they were, and they could be kept secure, every judge in the US is supposed to get these powers? So what about judges in the UK, EU, Israel, Russia, China, Japan, Korea, Iran, Iraq, India, Pakistan and so forth? What if the laws differ in some countries so they don't require a judge but anyone who works for the government should able to decrypt?

If a US company provided a backdoor for judges in one country, other countries are going to say "give us the same or we will ban the sale of your product in our country".

I don't know that I agree that judges - even with a proper court order - should be allowed to search someone's phone. Why? There's no precedent for this in the past - look at how much information someone's phone carries. That's basically the equivalent of a blanket search warrant covering not only your home, car, office, etc. but also your mind. I mean, in the past if someone told me something important I have to memorize it. Now I don't have to bother, because if they told me in a text message I know I can find that text again, even five years later. Why should judges have unrestricted ability to search my memory? Because it makes overly fearful people a little less afraid when they read about the latest terrorist attack, knowing that the government has unlimited power to snoop?

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Facepalm

Re: Biometrics

Ah, I see the problem with your plan, Why should a Federal judge have control over access to UK phones?

Oh, and expect a large number of hand amputation attacks on federal judges if your plan is accepted.

And you forgot the troll icon.

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Re: Biometrics

Rather than a finger print, I'd say a constantly shifting password. A bit like how facebook can generate a security pin to log in with new devices which changes every 10 minutes.

Of course even that isn't foolproof.

But even if, by some magic, they did develop a backdoor that legally had to be put in all software. What's to stop somebody publishing software without this backdoor? Sure a company trading in the US / UK can't, but an individual who doesn't like backdors in their device?

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Re: Biometrics

If we for a moment pretend biometrics are 100% perfect, secure, foolproof and able to determine if the fingerprint is provided from a live and willing judge. Just for the sake of the argument.

Are you planning to grant US Federal judges this power over all phones in the world? Isn't that a bit overreaching, and out of jurisdiction? Or only handsets sold in the US? (And what makes you think handsets wont be bought in Mexico, and resold in the US...)

How about other nations? Should every judge at the level determined by the individual nation be granted this? Would you like the commissars of Putin or Kim to have access to your phone at will?

And what happens when a judge is replaced?

And how long would it take before apps had a possibility whether or not to trust the builtin biometrics, for instance requiring a password or other form of authentication instead.

So in short. This would greatly reduce the basic security of the handsets. Add a lot of cost. And slightly inconvenience anyone who wants to keep something secret.

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Re: Biometrics

"

Rather than a finger print, I'd say a constantly shifting password.

"

And exactly how do you propose to "constantly shift" the password of data that's stored on a phone I haven't switched on for months? You need some of Ms May's magic pixie dust.

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Re: Biometrics

Hmmm if it is an Apple phone don't I just hold it up to your face or mugshot and now it is unlocked?

I can't help thinking that if governments make such ridiculous faulty arguments on this topic it must mean they have found some backdoors or practical vulnerabilities and just want you to think that they are secure and they can't crack them, so the bad guys continue to use them.

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Windows

Re: Biometrics

@gabor1

If you use bio-metrics to unlock a mobile device then your opinion on data security does not count.

Hint: Your phone's case IS FULL OF YOUR FINGERPRINTS! If you use facial recognition, robber points the device at the poor fellow he just stole it from, "thanks, me changing code and going shopping ..."

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Re: Biometrics

"Isn't that a bit overreaching, and out of jurisdiction?"

ITYF gabor1 is from the US and doesn't understand concepts such as The Rest Of The World.

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Re: Biometrics

"Can someone explain why this can't be solved by biometric security?"

Yes.

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Chairman May does not care about trivial technicalities like the realities of bloody complicated mathematics, human nature and sneering "experts". Nothing, nothing whatsoever, must stand in her way to a more comprehensive police state where everybody* must be monitored 24/7 and recorded and all the time, not just if they are suspected of anything. Nothing must stand in this way, including law, democracy, common decency and most of all, the ECJ. Screwing the entire country over economically and socially just to get rid of the ECJ and its attempts to introduce accountability, rights for "plebs" and the EU's general aim to reduce inequality is very much worth it. If this also happens to make politicians and their very rich friends even richer at the same time then this is a double bonus.

I really, really wish that I could put a /sarcasm tag but it's ceased to be possible to be sarcastic about it.

* Everybody except politicians, their very rich friends and "celebrities" (for some reason).

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Anonymous Coward

Chairman May...

This.

If the world wasn't being run by power mad sociopaths wielding discriminatory policy, there would far less 'terrorists' and 'extremists' in the first place.

May and her ilk can go whistle.

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"...must stand in her way to a more comprehensive police state..."

The irony being she loves cutting the budget of the Police, so that when the UK becomes a police state there'll be no police to police it.

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The irony being she loves cutting the budget of the Police, so that when the UK becomes a police state there'll be no police to police it.

That's the puzzling bit about it... it could be part of an overall plan to monitor everyone 24/7 which would reduce the number of needed Police? Or maybe just as a prelude to outsourcing more and more of the duties of the Police to private organisations?

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"That's the puzzling bit about it... it could be part of an overall plan to monitor everyone 24/7 which would reduce the number of needed Police? Or maybe just as a prelude to outsourcing more and more of the duties of the Police to private organisations?"

I think the latter is more likely. Her husband, apparently, had some dealings with G4S, so it's not beyond possibility that some sort of pseudo-Robocop-OCP-era privatisation of the police force in the UK could happen.

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Anonymous Coward

More like IF the UK becomes a police state. May wont be in power for very long.

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This is something May's wanted for years. If she wants it so badly she could just roll up her sleeves, learn coding, learn maths and deliver this wonderful idea herself. After all, if she wants a thing done right who else could she rely on but herself? I wonder why she hasn't.

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Because she's barely competent at being a decidely below average politician? I know quite a few people in her constituency and they've never had a complimentary thing to say about her or how she manages her constituency (she does nothing) - however because of people voting like sheep for the same party they have always voted for regardless of how idiotic their policies are, how corrupt they have been proven and how they have managed to get away with this, toads like this keep on getting (re)elected.

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Anonymous Coward

Well the reason she keep getting (re)elected is because of FPTP.

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*Strongly* disagree with the view of her being barely competent as a constituency MP. As someone with political views to the left of Tony Benn I am no fan of her politically, but she's a good MP for her constituents, regular surgeries and meeting with people, and helping as their representative. She keeps getting re-elected as people in Maidenhead often seem to have a confused view about politics - I was quizzed as to how I would consider voting Labour as I owned my own house. A mortgage, hardly owning it, and I'm keen on the redistribution of wealth, improvements of public services etc.

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SVV
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You show 'em PM

Once these backdoors have been built into the systems, governments WILL be able to access all these communications. Such as the Russian government, the Chinese government, the North Korean government.......... oh yes, and lots of criminals too!

Next demand that everybody always leaves their house unlocked, so government can always take a peek inside, don't worry that everyone else will also be able to do so too..... After all, those door locks meant that these dastardly types could have "communicated" their plans to each other by talking in private, without anyone overhearing them!

What calibre of "advisors" is she employing that let her spout this stuff on the global stage? IT security experts or 20-something party activists who are being given cushy government jobs?

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Facepalm

Whatever mechanism the Feds can use, every government in the world will insist on having access to as well, to monitor their local "potential terrorists". And any "potential spies" as well, i.e. the rest of the world.

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The poor spooks

Come on, who here isn't feeling sympathy for our pals in the "intelligence" community for whom this encryption is forcing them to have to work for a living instead of just sitting in a chair drinking coffee. Those poor poor bastards.

Why if only they hadn't betrayed the public trust in the first place we wouldn't be in this position. As it stands they are forever stained in my mind as lying liars who lie.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The poor spooks

I would defend the poor spooks, to some extent. While those in the higher seats of their trade, do obsess about having Godlike powers, most of them are "only following orders". Orders and pressure. Funding is target-driven, and they're in this neverending fear of the next attack, which EVERYBODY is going to blame on them, for being blind and deaf. And as people use mass communications, they try to catch up with mass surveillance. And that it helps to keep tabs on what the plebs are thinking... well, the paymasters don't mind that, do they :/

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Windows

"They are waiting on a change in public mood"

And so we have the ludicrous situation of encryption Groundhog Day where the same things are said and done over and over again, each day the same.

It's coming from the same "people" who have been offering us the stale puke menu of "Russian Interference" since DNC got its mail server copied to an USB stick. If the public doesn't like it or doesn't care, regular recalls via "newspapers" and, if necessary, "popular culture" will be applied. A little "Steele Dossier", unspecified future "terror attacks" that could be thwarted by decryption. Unconfirmed rumors, retconning and lies as facts known by everyone in secondary sentences.

These people are straight-on satanic, make no mistake.

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How did this incompetent, brainless, insipid excuse for a human being become prime minister?

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She became Prime Minister because the Conservatives thought they had another Thatcher and made her leader, then lots of people voted for her in the election. Lots of wrong all round.

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Anonymous Coward

Because we, the electorate, put her there. Not directly perhaps, but anyone who is prime minister is 1) a directly elected MP, 2) appointed as PM by other directly elected MPs responding to the political situation created by how the electorate has voted. It rarely reflects the opinions of everybody, but tough luck that's democracy.

Look at what happened in 2010 when liberal voters started whinging about them forming a coalition with the Tories. Well duh whatever did they expect to happen given the results?

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Anonymous Coward

She inherited the job then bribed the dinosaur denying flat earth society fuckwits called the DUP.

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Anonymous Coward

" It rarely reflects the opinions of everybody, but tough luck that's democracy."

It rarely reflects the opinions of the majority of voters, but tough luck that's FPTP democracy.

FTFY

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"Because we, the electorate, put her there. Not directly perhaps, but anyone who is prime minister is 1) a directly elected MP, 2) appointed as PM by other directly elected MPs responding to the political situation created by how the electorate has voted. It rarely reflects the opinions of everybody, but tough luck that's democracy."

It doesn't appear to be a commonly known fact, but the Tories won a majority in Britain. Since the British parties don't stand in Northern Irish seats, they stand no chance there, and it's only in the whole UK that they failed to get a majority, but this is really a type of super-majority, because of those extra seats. The great irony of having to rely on DUP support is that the only reason they have to is because of Northern Ireland in the first place.

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DJO
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Because she was completely incompetent as Home Sec they thought any other position would be an improvement. Wrong.

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"How did this incompetent, brainless, insipid excuse for a human being become prime minister?"

By standing around doing nothing whilst the others knifed each other in the back.

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How did this incompetent, brainless, insipid excuse for a human being become prime minister?

@eldakka

She is PM as she became leader of the governing party during their current term of office and IMHO was viewed as the least worst.

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Anonymous Coward

"Look at what happened in 2010 when liberal voters started whinging about them forming a coalition with the Tories. Well duh whatever did they expect to happen given the results?"

And I still don't know if I've forgiven the LibDems for this yet which puts me in a dilemma because Conservatives and Labour are as bad as each other and if a Labour government was in power we'd still be having this discussion - remember ID cards?

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And I still don't know if I've forgiven the LibDems for this yet

For what? For killing off ID cards? Both Labour and the Conservatives were in favour of ID Cards but the Lib Dems killed it by making it a condition of supporting a coalition.

It is a shame they weren't able to get both that and no tuition fees as conditions but I think they made the correct choice. I realise others may disagree.

It is a shame that people chose to punish them for not achieving the impossible (killing both) and so have left us with this intolerable unrestrained Conservative government instead.

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"It is a shame that people chose to punish them for not achieving the impossible"

I think that's one of the reasons. The other is that people voted for them as a protest vote, something they reckoned was "safe" because they (LibDems) would never be a party of government. And then they did the unforgivable - they joined the government. Just being against things isn't a responsible political stand; sometimes you have to be for things and a lot of their voters had forgotten that.

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Almost, but not untirely unlike

Well, they have 316 seats our of 650 - 18 seats represent Northern Ireland, so if we knocked that down to GB only, they'd have 316 seats out of 632 - so they have exactly half, and are 1 seat away from a bare minimum majority.

So not quite a majority, but very close.

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Re: Almost, but not untirely unlike

"Well, they have 316 seats our of 650 - 18 seats represent Northern Ireland, so if we knocked that down to GB only, they'd have 316 seats out of 632 - so they have exactly half, and are 1 seat away from a bare minimum majority."

They won 317 at the election.

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