back to article Zimmermann slams Cameron’s ‘absurd’ plans for crypto ban

Crypto pioneer Phil Zimmermann has labelled UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s anti-encryption plans as "absurd". Zimmermann, creator of the PGP email privacy package, countered Cameron's argument that encryption is creating a means for terrorists and child abusers to communicate in private, arguing instead that intelligence …

  1. soldinio
    Big Brother

    Noting to fear, nothing to hide right?

    I fear criminals, so I hide my bank details.

    I fear burglars so I hide my travel plans.

    I fear pedophiles so encrypt family photos.

    I fear political corruption so I hide my voting intentions

    I fear embarrassment and ridicule so I hide private conversations with my wife.

    So tell me Dave, Theresa and all your vote grabbing short sighted dangerously ignorant clique - what do you fear and how do you hide?

    Wankers

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      @soldinio I can't imagine the plonker that downvoted you, so I gave you an upvote.

      The problem with dave and co is a total lack of real knowledge, exacerbated by a total lack of imagination.

      I can't stand the other lot but I do not think dave's crowd should get any more time to screw things any more than they already have.

      I guess everyone is going to have to go back to using cash and doing business face to face, that should really get the economy on a sound footing and all this from a party that is traditionally known for understanding and supporting business.

      Calling them wankers doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of their ineptitude.

      1. g e

        Those two downvotes

        Are Dave and Theresa

      2. g e

        "Calling them wankers doesn't even begin to scratch the surface"

        No.

        That is why I now use 'Cameron' as the C word.

        e.g. "Jesus, that guy last night in the bar. What an utter fucking Cameron"

        Would be interesting to see it gain far wider use before the elections...

    2. alain williams Silver badge

      Nothing to hide if you have done nothing wrong ?

      Having a crap is not illegal, so why do toilets have doors ?

      1. NumptyScrub

        Re: Nothing to hide if you have done nothing wrong ?

        Having a crap is not illegal, so why do toilets have doors ?

        Shitting in public is illegal (public indecency laws), so we are basically being asked to install toilet doors that are opaque to the public but transparent to GCHQ (and transparent to anyone who knows how GCHQ make them transparent). Next we'll have to make walls out of the same stuff, and wear clothes made out of that stuff. GCHQ demands the ability to see all things at all times lest one terrorist be overlooked.

        Then they decide to overlook suspected terrorists that they already know about, because they've not done anything for a few months, et voila! Charlie Hebdo

        Asking for the ability to watch more people, because some people you chose to stop watching killed people, is pretty fucking disingenuous.

      2. Andrew Meredith

        Re: Nothing to hide if you have done nothing wrong ?

        >>Having a crap is not illegal, so why do toilets have doors ?<<

        Pithy but spot on (have an upvote)

        I have usually answered direct questions as to whether I have something to hide with a straight answer; yes, my privacy, don't you?

        Kind of the same as yours but not as funny :-)

      3. DrBobMatthews

        Re: Nothing to hide if you have done nothing wrong ?

        Considering Cameron's performance to date and the fact that he is a born liar, I would think that he has plenty to hide and be only to relieved to use encryption to cover his sorry ass.

    3. Dazed and Confused

      > So tell me Dave,

      I think this is a question of ignorance on their part. They don't understand that it is not possible to have a secure conversation with your bank while not being able to have a secure conversation with other people. They don't understand that having a back door that GCHQ can open means that every other government around the world and half the criminal gangs too can also open at will.

      The whole political class just doesn't seem to have the faintest clue about how technology works and they seem to be determined to listen to "advisers" who will tell them what they want to hear. This week it might be Dave, in a few weeks it might be Ed or Nigel or Nick, they all seem to act in the same way once they get a whiff of power.

    4. MJI Silver badge

      Will Ed be the same?

      I think so,

      I don't think Nick will, but Nigel - no idea

      1. DrBobMatthews

        Re: Will Ed be the same?

        Nigel is worse than Cameron he would welcome more control. Nigel is from the same mould, a shifty, deceitful, lying opportunist who' only interest is Nigel.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Noting to fear, nothing to hide right?"

      Actually, I think that the generally recognised phrase is "nothing to hide, nothing to fear". Puts a different emphasis on things, doesn't it.

      "I fear criminals, so I hide my bank details.

      I fear burglars so I hide my travel plans.

      I fear pedophiles so encrypt family photos.

      I fear political corruption so I hide my voting intentions

      I fear embarrassment and ridicule so I hide private conversations with my wife."

      Alright, but personally speaking I'd like all the terrorists, criminals, burglars, paedophiles, politically corrupt and nosy parkers rounded up and slung into jail for a long time before their repugnant activities impinge on my own life. I'd fear them all a whole lot less knowing that they're all getting a right rigorous buggering every day behind bars courtesy of the nastiest slags going. Ok, so maybe that's a bit excessive in the case of the nosy parkers.

      Your use of encryption does nothing to stop a criminal robbing your bank or stealing your credit cards, or stop a burglar breaking into your house and beating you up because you happen to be there, or stop a paedophile preying on your children when they walk to school, or stop politicians being corrupt, or stop a terrorist blowing you up on an underground train. Their use of encryption makes it easier for them to get away with it. What does stop those things happening is law enforcement.

      So will this approach by the UK government help law enforcement? Who knows. Probably not much, and probably not enough.

      A population and its government must use every means possible to keep pushing back against those who would exploit, kill and abuse them. What is guaranteed is that if we stop doing that, or we completely prevent our law enforcement agencies doing it for us, then the criminals, burglars, terrorists, paedophiles and corrupt will pay heed. They will be rubbing their hands with glee. And they will, quicker than you can blink, be giving you real reason to be afraid.

      So give the politicians a break. You're worrying about comparatively minor intrusions into your use of technology. They're worrying about preventing people like you being killed, maimed, abused or exploited by some properly nasty baddies who really couldn't give a flying fuck for your privacy. And it's clearly getting harder for governments to do that job. No thanks to those companies that make heaps of money providing internet services and pushing profitable adverts to baddies and goodies alike. It'd be nice if they lent us all a hand.

      There is of course far more to law enforcement than trawling through internet traffic (though the prior warning potentially gained could presumably be life saving). But do you honestly think that a democratically elected politician with less than four months before an election would risk vote-losing adverse publicity unless they thought that the alternative was worse? Now that might be something to really worry about.

      1. Schultz

        @AC above

        "A population and its government must use every means possible to keep pushing back against those who would exploit, kill and abuse them." (AC here)

        Seriously?

        As in "Death is the solution to all problems. No man - no problem." (Stalin)?

        Or as in "The great strength of the totalitarian state is that it forces those who fear it to imitate it." (Hitler)?

        Always doubt those who peddle moral absolutes, final solutions, or total commitment. You are allowed to quote me on that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @AC above

          @Schultz,

          "As in "Death is the solution to all problems. No man - no problem." (Stalin)?

          Or as in "The great strength of the totalitarian state is that it forces those who fear it to imitate it." (Hitler)?"

          Hmmm, quotes that seem highly applicable to the USA today. The USA seems to like to execute people, and likes to impose its will on everybody else in the world. OK so its not all bad like the Third Reich and the USSR were, but a (presumed) American really should think very carefully about how others perceive the USA and its woeful law and order deficit before spouting off quotes like that.

      2. JS001

        If encryption is broken by the government, we'll all have more to fear from run-of-the-mill criminals than the paedo-terrorists.

      3. NumptyScrub

        Actually, I think that the generally recognised phrase is "nothing to hide, nothing to fear". Puts a different emphasis on things, doesn't it.

        They took away my wealth, so I need not fear theft

        They took away my children, so I need not fear paedophiles

        They took away my vote, so I need not fear political corruption

        They have taken everything from me, so I have nothing left to fear

        Yep, definitely puts a different emphasis on things :)

        A population and its government must use every means possible to keep pushing back against those who would exploit, kill and abuse them. What is guaranteed is that if we stop doing that, or we completely prevent our law enforcement agencies doing it for us, then the criminals, burglars, terrorists, paedophiles and corrupt will pay heed. They will be rubbing their hands with glee. And they will, quicker than you can blink, be giving you real reason to be afraid.

        "Stopping" pushing back against those who would do us harm, would require us to remove existing powers from law enforcement, not failing to give them more powers. They already have the ability to get a warrant to target surveillance, and to detain suspects. 50 years ago that was considered perfectly adequate, and targeted surveillance is still available and still capable of providing useful information, including the ability to catch all communications data over cellular or fixed telephony and internet connectivity, for a known suspect, and to install and operate means of overhearing communications. All the encrypted VoIP or chat apps in the world are unable to stop someone from using a microphone to record you talking, or a camera to record you typing on a keyboard.

        So the issue would appear to be all that fuss about getting the warrant in the first place? It would definitely be a lot easier for law enforcement if everyone was always under surveillance. You could easily identify political dissidents paedophiles if you have 24/7 recordings of everything they ever do, and then disappear them lock them up for good. The problem I have is that a 24/7 surveillance state is, pretty much by definition, a totalitarian state.

        So give the politicians a break. You're worrying about comparatively minor intrusions into your use of technology.

        I'm worrying about the ongoing erosion of privacy in the name of "safety", when the demons I am being "protected" from are less dangerous than driving my car; cars hurt and kill more people each year in any country than terrorists and paedophiles put together.

        They're worrying about preventing people like you being killed, maimed, abused or exploited by some properly nasty baddies who really couldn't give a flying fuck for your privacy.

        They apparently aren't worrying about me being killed or maimed by cars though, even though it is orders of magnitude more likely. They apparently aren't worrying about me being abused or exploited by corporate entities that want my personal data for marketing purposes, and are willing to lie, cheat and steal to get that data.

        And it's clearly getting harder for governments to do that job. No thanks to those companies that make heaps of money providing internet services and pushing profitable adverts to baddies and goodies alike. It'd be nice if they lent us all a hand.

        You mean those companies that provide a huge amount of political funding in order to ensure that laws favour their side? Here's a good one; my government already takes my medical data (gathered by the NHS) and hands it over to "selected" 3rd parties that provide a product or service that may be relevant to my medical history, as part of the Care.Data initiative. I have to specifically opt out if I do not want that to happen. I am told that opting out might mean I miss vital, life-saving offers.

        "Be advertised at or you might die from something preventable". How fucking awesome is that?

        There is of course far more to law enforcement than trawling through internet traffic (though the prior warning potentially gained could presumably be life saving). But do you honestly think that a democratically elected politician with less than four months before an election would risk vote-losing adverse publicity unless they thought that the alternative was worse? Now that might be something to really worry about.

        If you honestly think Cameroon's outburst is anything other than an ill judged, badly misunderstood appeal to fearmongering then I think you may be mistaken. He hasn't got a clue what the actual outcome of "banning cryptography" would be otherwise he would have kept his fool mouth shut, this is a knee jerk "because terrorist!" response hoping to get scared citizens to vote for him out of fear.

        Did you know, a recent study shows 100% of terrorists use transport to get to the place where they subsequently kill innocent people? I am also reliably informed that transport is responsible for some deaths every year just on its own! I reckon, if we really want to deal a terrifying blow to terrorists and save the lives of innocent people, then we should ban transport as soon as possible. It will quite literally save thousands of lives every year.

        The recent focus on terrorism is because it makes them (the government) look bad, not because it saves lives, otherwise we'd be spending all that legislatory time making the roads safer by eroding driver privacy forcing drivers to be under surveillance at all times while driving. All right-thinking citizens obviously support drivers being under surveillance at all times (while driving) because only criminals break road traffic regulations. Nothing to hide, nothing to fear, right? :)

      4. RobHib
        Big Brother

        @A.C. -- Your'e from the Government then?

        1. Why are you an A.C.? Ironic isn't it, you're actually hiding something! (Remember, that's what encryption does.)

        2. People who espouse views in the way you've expressed them usually wish their names be attached.

        3. What you've written is almost a boilerplate press release from the police or government.

        4. Thus, it's difficult then to conclude you're NOT from the establishment.

        5. In the circumstances that would also explain why you're an A.C.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Point

    The point is, and you'll not like this, is that a society based on "secrets" is a broken society. Who cares who you get up to things with? As long as you don't harm anyone else, you've nothing to fear. Oh, you're scared of ridicule? You'll grow up at some stage I'm sure and be more confident in your actions and your choices. Right now the whole thing is built on secrecy, even posting anonymously ;) As if it's really anonymous anyway :D From our industrial secrets to our back room deals.

    A system that is as broken as this one, and one that means you need to fight to earn to eat, and that's fight every other human, needs these layers of protection. However, it doesn't have to be this way. And that's where evolution comes in.

    I'm, personally, happy that the NSA did all that data slurping, so now we have the basis of a computer system that can track resources in real time and when we come to manage those resources, instead of fight over "profit", we'll have a big chunk of the work already done. Don't worry. I'll down vote this post myself to save your ire and mouse finger :D

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Who are you A/C ?

      A member of the British army 77th Brigade brigade ?

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31070114

      1. Looper
        Flame

        Re: Who are you A/C ?

        He is a total fucking berk.

        OR.

        A monkeybrained troll.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: The Point

      OK A/C. Pony up. No secrets.

      Post here your bank account details, password, security answers etc. And your eBay, Amazon etc logins & passwords.

      What's that?

      You've just discovered that not only do you have something to hide, you're contractually obliged to hide it?

    3. RyokuMas Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: The Point

      "Oh, you're scared of ridicule? You'll grow up at some stage I'm sure and be more confident in your actions and your choices."

      ... in which case, A/C, why are you hiding behind an anonymous account?

      Hypocrite.

    4. 's water music Silver badge

      Re: The Point

      I disagree that use of secrecy indicates a broken society. Functioning societies require a means of enforcing cultural norms whether through shame, guilt or fear and secrecy is just another mechanism for increasing the granularity with which norms are enforced and exceptions are granted (or taken). Utopian dreams that there is an achievable 'perfect' society where we can dispense with checks balances and other inconsistent fudges are just that, dreams. Reality always comes back to balancing competing priorities a and absolute secrecy or openness will remain in the realms of thought experiments

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Point

      "The point is, and you'll not like this, is that a society based on "secrets" is a broken society"

      Feel free to post the following

      Credit card Number:

      Expiry date

      Start date (if applicable)

      CCV code

      User names and passwords to all ecommerce sites and email accounts.

      Mother Maiden name

      Name of 1st School

      Name of 1st pet

      Name of road you grew up n

      Nothing to hide and all that.....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Point

        "Feel free to post the following"

        Shouldn't have to. We should be able to sniff it out anyway. Just like back in the days of villages with open doors and windows, nosy neighbours and gossip chains. What happened back then when everyone knew each other with at least some degree of detail?

    6. JS001

      Re: The Point

      "Who cares who you get up to things with?"

      Er... aside from criminals, much of the rest of society!

      "Oh, you're scared of ridicule? "

      Or social tyranny. Or being imprisoned for things that shouldn't in a free society be crimes.

    7. Rob Crawford

      Re: The Point

      Ok then please insist on your correspondence taking place on postcards, replacement bank cards can be in an envelope, but your new PIN must be printed on the outside of the envelope.

      Have glass walls in your house.

      Or better still just be quiet and sit at the back

    8. NumptyScrub

      Re: The Point

      The point is, and you'll not like this, is that a society based on "secrets" is a broken society. Who cares who you get up to things with? As long as you don't harm anyone else, you've nothing to fear. Oh, you're scared of ridicule? You'll grow up at some stage I'm sure and be more confident in your actions and your choices.

      I have literally no problem with an open society where everything is publically available. I just demand that the government go first to prove their intent :)

      Protip: they will never go first.

    9. VinceH

      Re: The Point

      "The point is, and you'll not like this..."

      Hi, Dave.

      *waves*

    10. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The Point

      So good Sir... If secrets are what's wrong with this society - would you mind posting your personal details, name/address, bank account details, bank login credentials, your employment information, your email account(s) login details, pictures of you/your family; in fact, set an example to us bad secretive people by sharing your details with random strangers on the internet.

      Of course you won't - you're not that stupid... And campaigning to remove encryption is stupid - if you allow one person (GCHQ etc) to bypass encryption, anyone can - and not everyone in the world is as honest as you.

    11. Steve Todd
      Stop

      Re: The Point

      The government sees a need for official secrets, which it won't disclose to the public until 50 or more years after the fact (or not at all in some cases). If it's ok for them to have secrets why can't we have them?

      1. kraut

        Re: The Point

        Indeed, and why are TTIP negotiations conducted in secret by our civil servants? How can FOI requests be denied to tax payers on grounds of "commercial confidentiality"?

    12. soldinio

      Re: The Point

      An eloquent response deserving of retort.

      Firstly " Oh, you're scared of ridicule? You'll grow up at some stage I'm sure and be more confident in your actions and your choices" I have stood by my actions even in the face of arrest, loosing jobs and partners over the years, but consider this example. When I was younger I worked for an escort agency, it simply meant I went to a few nice restaurants and business functions where the client deemed it worth the cost to have someone young and intelligent on their arm instead of fending off asshats all night because they turned up single. I did not sleep with any of them. Because of the common missconception, my wife occasionally calls me her gigolo to tease me. My current job is as a respected officer for a local government authority. If they read the nickname in text messages (and this is a genuine risk as I have a .gcsx email address) , the mere suggestion of accepting money for sex would result in enormous professional embarrassment and ridicule. Wishing to avoid this is not a sign of immaturity.

      Moving on, I keep it secret from my kids that Santa doesn't exist. I keep it secret from my wife what I have bought her for valentines day. This is not a symptom of "broken society". Financial inequality is symptom. The fact that you are on this forum suggests you are in the top 5% of richest in the world. Give me all your personal and bank details and encourage your friends to do the same, I will take half of one pay check of everyone and drive to africa/suburban china/north korea/you name the deprived area and take supplies and money to redistribute that wealth to help "fix society" - still have the courage of your convictions? And that's before I start on the fact that you posted as anonymous coward (although as you suggest, is it really anonymous - should I just address you as coward?)

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: The Point

        Gruesome physical elimination using ISIS-approved implements is just about right for the anti-privacy brigade and similar muppets.

        Paranoia Is Good for You

        Privacy is the single most effective means of preserving freedom against an encroaching state. Privacy rests on the assumption that — in the absence of specific evidence of wrongdoing — an individual has a right to shut his front door and tell other people (including the government) to mind their own damned business. This is a presumption of innocence. It is also the bedrock of civil society.

        The act of slamming your front door expresses the key distinction between the private and public spheres. The private sphere consists of the areas of life in which an individual exercises authority and into which the government or other uninvited parties cannot properly intrude; traditionally, the home or family is offered as a prime example of the private sphere. Thus, historically, privacy has stood as a bulwark between the individual and government, between freedom and social control.

        Totalitarianism requires total information, and today's government is intent on achieving the complete identification of everyone, like taking an inventory of belongings to be taxed and controlled: national ID, biometrics, "your papers please!"

        Those who resist being inventoried present a problem for the state. The first line of attack is to accuse them of being "suspicious" — that is, of having criminal or shameful reasons for refusing to answer questions.

        "If you have nothing to hide …" the remark begins; and it always ends with a demand for compliance. Invoking privacy has gone from being the exercise of a right to an indication of guilt.

        This is a sleight of hand by which privacy is redefined as "concealment" or "secrecy"; of course, it is neither. As well as enabling freedom, privacy is part of a healthy, self-reflecting life.

        1. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: The Point

          You beat me to it D.A.M. privacy is not necessarily the same as keeping secrets, although maintaining privacy of your financial details is a matter of keeping them secret.

          Why should anyone other than some of the more moronic social networkers want to share every detail of their lives with all and sundry?

          And why should it be of any interest to anyone else?

          Particularly the government of a nation whose law states that you are innocent until proven guilty and that guilt should only need to be proven AFTER there is some evidence to indicate that you may be guilty of something.

          As it is, things are heading in the direction of everyone having such a large body of data relating to their every detail that in the event of the government not liking them for any reason at all, they would have a greater chance of stitching little bits and pieces together in a way that could cast doubt on innocence even when there is no guilt.

          Thatcher began eroding civil liberties by stomping on the unions and taking it further than necessary, Blair used terrorism to erode a lot more and now dim dave is just trying to do it because he can, Oh! or now him and Obarmy are going for the Ruskies perhaps it's back to us all being potential reds under the bed in the new cold war.

          1. Down not across Silver badge

            Re: The Point

            As it is, things are heading in the direction of everyone having such a large body of data relating to their every detail that in the event of the government not liking them for any reason at all, they would have a greater chance of stitching little bits and pieces together in a way that could cast doubt on innocence even when there is no guilt.

            But of course. You might not be guilty today, but what about tomorrow. Or with the next gov't or the next kneejerk reaction to something.

    13. Tom 35 Silver badge

      Re: The Point

      "a society based on "secrets" is a broken society"

      They don't want s society without secrets. They still get to keep secrets, with harsh penalties if you expose any of them. It's only you and me who don't get to keep any secrets.

      You don't even get to know who They are, it may include corporations.

      You get to play poker but have to keep all your cards face up.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder...

    ... if David Cameron and friends will be the first to stop using encryption for their own business? And will it extend to affairs of state too?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I wonder...

      As others along the way here have pointed out, it is very likely that Cameron and his buddies don't actually understand the role encryption plays in common business transactions like banking. For a couple of decades at least these guys have worn their ignorance as a badge of honor, believing (probably correctly) that it endeared them to their own equally ignorant supporters. So yes, Cameron and his ilk are probably going to make a show of not using encryption if they succeed in outlawing its use by the rest of us. They don't see the down side the way that a blind man can't see an open elevator shaft. But maybe that's a good thing. After a period of chaos and catastrophic theft of critical financial data Cameron at least would be discredited for all time. Of course that's a high price for the rest of us to pay just because most of our political representatives lack the brains of a skink.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: I wonder...

        But there should have been a few Sir Humphreys behind the scenes telling the Cameron that it's an extremely courageous policy decision before he got to the stage of announcing it. Or perhaps everybody's lobotomised?

        1. kraut

          Re: I wonder...

          It's the Sir Humphreys in the Home Office that have been pushing for total surveillance state for the last two decades. Why else would every Home Secretary start spouting the same line once they get into office?

          All for dissing Cameron and co, but let's not forget that Labour effectively banned encryption (well, made not handing over your keys punishable by a prison sentence... so baned encryption from the government) with #RIPA, which, they assures us, would stop money laundering, child pornography and terrorism. So be grateful to our political classes that we don't have to worry about those three evils anymore. Particularly not terrorism, since that was all sorted out by Tony!

      2. Lyndon Hills 1

        Re: I wonder...maybe he should have asked one of his own supporters?

        remember jeremy clarkson sounding off about the dangers of hackers?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What exactly is the government's thinking for this?

    Do they really expect terrorists or child molesters or possessors of abuse photos and videos to go "Better not use encryption. I'll be breaking the law."

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge
      Big Brother

      No

      but it means that the media trope of anyone using encryption is complete.

      FWIW I suspect this is the governments real agenda. They know there's no practical way of banning encryption. However, if they demonise it enough, then it's another tool in their armoury of policing by prejudice, rather than policing by statute. Mention "encryption" when they arrest a "bad" guy, and he's as good as guilty.

    2. NumptyScrub

      What exactly is the government's thinking for this?

      Do they really expect terrorists or child molesters or possessors of abuse photos and videos to go "Better not use encryption. I'll be breaking the law."

      Of course not. The thinking is this: encryption = guilty*

      See encryption anywhere, and the person or people involved can be automatically sentenced to the maximum term for being a serial child molesting terrorist, without needing to spend any time investigating or creating a case. Obviously any encrypted data should be treated as if it contains the worst possible content and sentenced as such

      *unless it's government, because they need encryption to do their job and thus it is a legitimate business tool and not criminal at all. Only other people who use encryption are all guaranteed criminals of the very worst sort, honest.

      1. Lysenko

        "Of course not. The thinking is this: encryption = guilty*"

        One word: Steganography. If they outlaw encryption then all that will happen is even more bandwidth will be burned on cute cat photos encoded so that it is mathematically impossible to establish whether there are embedded bomb plans or the sender is simply a feline obsessive.

        My guess is that the clued up bad guys are doing this already and only the terrorist equivalent of script kiddies rely on plain, obvious crypto for sensitive stuff. The really scary thing here isn't that Asshat politicos spout this rubbish, it is that people who ought to know better like GCHQ and the FBI seem to support these asinine suggestions.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          re: Steganography

          The already have a database of reference images that can be used in the detection of steganography in cases where existing imagery already exists on the 'net. New material, or material in new format after conversion, is going to give them pause.

          1. JimmyPage Silver badge
            FAIL

            Re: re: Steganography

            But properly done steganography is impossible to detect in a fresh image. As long as no "before" image is kept anywhere, the spooks can have from now to eternity to try to decrypt them.

            Besides steganography may not necessarily involve fiddling with the binary data in a file. Information in a picture may actually be contained in the subject of the picture.

            Post a picture of "me and the posse" and you're signalling "go ahead with operation Pablo".

            Post a picture of "me and Aunt Mabel and Uncle Terence" and you're signalling "Operation abort. Agent compromised".

            Ever seen "Mississippi Burning" ? There's a scene where one FBI agent shows how Ku Klux Klan members were able to signal in photos their allegiance. You'd only know it was there if you were told.

      2. kraut

        Do not even people on the reg remember that the last government made it illegal, on pain of a prison sentence, to NOT hand over your keys to the government on bugger all oversight? Hello? RIPA? Do we all have the attention span of goldfish now?

        1. JimmyPage Silver badge
          Thumb Down

          @kraut

          the thing is, getting encryption keys via RIPA is a drag. And annoyingly can involve one of those idiot judges who actually insists on doing things legally. It also generates unhelpful press coverage.

          Banning encryption would bypass RIPA for people who obey the law, and give "probable cause" for those that don't. Particularly if their skin is off white.

          1. kraut

            Re: @kraut

            You might want to check the small print. AFAIK RIPA requests do not require any judicial oversight whatsoever. Just a mid-ranking official to sign them off.

            But yes, "Using encryption while brown" is bound to get you a visit from the terrorism police....

    3. kraut

      What exactly is the government's thinking for this?

      Far be it from me to point out the obviously unwarranted assumption in that statement.

      Do they really expect terrorists or child molesters or possessors of abuse photos and videos to go "Better not use encryption. I'll be breaking the law."

      That was exactly what Labour expected when they introduced RIPA. "Oh, as a child-molesting, money laundering terrorists I could go to prison for two years if I don't reveal my key and my evil plans...or reveal the key and go down for life. Fair cop, there you go, guvnor, here's me keys". I'm paraphrasing my former Labour MP, only slightly exaggerating for comic effect. She couldn't see the flaw in her logic.. not that her Tory successor is much better.

      Didn't work against the bad guys last time. Won't work against the bad guys this time. Much like banning handguns didn't stop crims using them. Does cause a lot of problems and inconvience for law-abiding folks, though.

      1. NumptyScrub

        That was exactly what Labour expected when they introduced RIPA. "Oh, as a child-molesting, money laundering terrorists I could go to prison for two years if I don't reveal my key and my evil plans...or reveal the key and go down for life. Fair cop, there you go, guvnor, here's me keys".

        Which is why they changed it. It now reads:

        (5)A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable—

        (a)on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding [the appropriate maximum term] or to a fine, or to both;

        (b)on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both.

        (5A)In subsection (5) ‘the appropriate maximum term’ means—

        (a)in a national security case [or a child indecency case], five years; and

        (b)in any other case, two years.

        I seem to recall some judge thinking it should be increased to the same term as the potential offense it could be hiding, so 10+ years for failing to decrypt a file that might contain child porn (but cannot be proven to contain anything). May as well go hog wild and make it a life sentence to fail to provide a password, because you can tell they just want the good old days of "guilty until proven innocent" back.

      2. Looper
        Facepalm

        Much like banning handguns didn't stop crims using them.

        Eh? Yes. It did.

        Firearm offences have fallen, therefore some criminals that would have used them no longer do.

        It hasn't completely eradicated their use, but it is still one of the lowest rates of firearm offences on the planet.

  5. Proud Father

    When we all become suspects, the terrorists have won.

    When we all become suspects, the terrorists have won.

    1. John G Imrie
      Unhappy

      the terrorists have won.

      When we all become suspects, the terrorists have won.

      FTFY

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When we all become suspects, the terrorists have won.

      “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

      ― Benjamin Franklin

      1. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: When we all become suspects, the terrorists have won.

        You may not want to use that in Blighty as he was one those rowdy hooligans who fostered the Unpleasantness in the Colonies.

        1. Someone Else Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: When we all become suspects, the terrorists have won.

          Yes, we here in the good ol' USA are a nation of terrorists. Waiddaminnit...Mark 85, do you work for the NSA?

          1. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: When we all become suspects, the terrorists have won.

            Hey.. I'm one of you and we are a nation of terrorists. It's been in all the papers that we can't be trusted with freedom and privacy. Work for the NSA? Nope... but I'm probably on their shit list. Come to think of it, you probably are to now.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: When we all become suspects, the terrorists have won.

        “Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”

        History has proven that we can have neither in any event, in the long run. Freedom can be abused to rob it from everyone else, and security is only effective in the long term when perfect, which is impossible. Otherwise, the opening you leave will be used to blow the whole thing wide open. The whole "they only have to be lucky once" bit...

        IOW, give any "free" nation time, regardless of the safeguards you try to put in place, and it'll eventually collapse from innate human imperfection.

        "Now you see that evil will always triumph...because good is dumb."

        1. kraut

          Re: When we all become suspects, the terrorists have won.

          You can't have perfect security, that's true. And most of what we see as "security" is, in Schneier's words, just "security theatre".

          But there's precious little evidence that giving up freedoms increases security. And, more importantly, the "security" issue is not actually as important as we think(*). We've all seen the stat that more ppl died from avoiding air travel in the US after 9/11 than died from 9/11.

          I haven't triple checked that fact, but I'm pretty damn sure more ppl dies in, say, OZ and UK from perfectly avoidable traffic accidents in the last 12 months than died from terrorism. The reason we focus on terrorism rather than significant risk is because we, as a species, are remarkably bad at intuitive statistics.

          IOW, give any "free" nation time, regardless of the safeguards you try to put in place, and it'll eventually collapse from innate human imperfection.

          Usually because people give in to authoritarian instincts. Look at Rome.

          "Now you see that evil will always triumph...because good is dumb."

          If terrorism in the last couple of years has proved anything beyond the barbarity of its perpetrators, it's proven that evil is, on average, way dumber than good.

          (*): In most western countries. If you live in Iraq, Syria, or other countries, YMMV.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When we all become suspects, the terrorists have won.

      We are all Guilty, The Government has Won.!

  6. adnim Silver badge
    Meh

    The naughty ones

    may encrypt a plain text file and steg it into the picture of a kitty, then post it to Facebook, Flicker, Pinterest.

    Alternatively they might post a paragraph of text to Facebook or a forum where every prime numbered/Fibonacci numbered character in the text spells a message. Perhaps this is not too bright, if I thought a message was hidden in plain text I would write code to pull any desired sequence of characters from that text. I am pretty sure GCHQ do that kind of thing now with suspect text.

    That's off the top of my head without any thought at all, just like an MP's thought process.

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: The naughty ones

      If you want to communicate using encryption, you could always use agree a system with the other person, so that if you send them a text saying "fancy watching the football this weekend?" they know that you mean (eg) "shoot the prime minister", but if your text reads "fancy watching the rugby this weekend?" then your friend will know that you mean "blow up the queen".

      There's not really anyway for GCHQ to break this code, unless you were daft enough to share it via some electronic means, and this is the sort of thing actually dangerous terrorists will use. The only people that are going to share their plans explicitly via email are the numpties that are more of a danger to themselves than others, but catching a numpty still looks good in the papers so the police will be happy either way.

      Or you could put those resources into stopping people from becoming terrorists in the first place, but that won't look good in the papers, so no politician is going to go for that.

    2. Andy Non Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: The naughty ones

      "a message was hidden in plain text"

      Reminds me of an international corporation I once worked for that would not allow any encrypted email attachments within email nor any plain text files or compressed files that contained any program code through their firewall. On the surface this was a good security policy intended to keep malware (or malicious scripts) out of the organisation. However, it was a non-starter for those of us in the software dept who sometimes worked from home using our own kit. It was not possible to email or share any source code with colleagues. The security dept who were based in America were less than sympathetic to the needs of the software developers based in the UK, so, with the permission of the head of my dept, I ended up writing a little program to convert any file into a CSV file consisting of the ASCII codes (in decimal) of the files and sent these through the corporate fire wall, reconstituting the original files at the other end. It worked well. On the downside, in principle we could have transferred any malware through their firewall, not that we ever did. It was just one of those cast iron corporate policy things where one size didn't fit all. A bit of lateral thinking and the block on encrypted files through the firewall was circumvented. I'm sure any such block on encrypted traffic by the UK govt would be just as unsuccessful regarding terrorists or others who wanted to bypass it. The only people hurt with the restriction would be the law abiding public.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The naughty ones

        I'm surprised the security department didn't red-flag a developing department sending accounting data (the .csv files). Heck, I'm surprised the .csv files weren't themselves flagged as suspect for being .csv files. After all, confidental financial data could've been on them and all...

        As for the stego, that can be made very difficult with a sufficiently-sophisticated sanitizer. Text can have whitespace trimmed, specific formatting enforced, and secret misspellings corrected. Graphics can be altered, flattened, and stripped of extra tags. Other formats, even programs, can be inspected by knowing how they're formatted, reducing the odds of hiding something there. Other formats can be restricted as too risky or too big.

        As for the code phrase system, two things you have to negotiate first. First, you actually have to meet, which runs you the risk of meeting a mole (there have been recent stories of terror plots foiled because one party was a mole). Second, such a system has a limited vocabulary, so if you decide it's neither the Queen or the Prime Minister but rather one specific minister from such-and-such at a specific place and time, you lack the means to convey something that specific.

        1. Andy Non Silver badge

          Re: The naughty ones

          "As for the code phrase system, two things you have to negotiate first... Second, such a system has a limited vocabulary, so if you decide it's neither the Queen or the Prime Minister but rather one specific minister from such-and-such at a specific place and time, you lack the means to convey something that specific."

          The limited vocabulary can be worked around fairly easy. An obvious thing would be to have some words<>alternative words lookup e.g. the instruction to "kill" could be to use the name of any football team as part of a text message. Other words could be a lookup for individual letters of the alphabet e.g. various music groups = "a", various country names = "b" and so on. Software could scan the text and build up the intended hidden message. The code words could be dropped into seemingly innocuous chatter; the sort that fills facebook and forums anyway. This approach would require the two people to have met though to have exchanged the software / word lookup tables. With many thousands of word=>letter equivalents it would make deciphering the text virtually impossible for third parties or to even know there was a hidden message, provided it was used like a one time cypher pad. Having a vast choice of word=>letter equivalents would allow people to encode messages into normal text without the text seeming unusual or forced in any way.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The naughty ones

            Toss in a raft-load of nulls into the mix and grammatically correct sentences should pass completely transparent to any detection scheme.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: The naughty ones

              Nulls? Explain how that would work...

  7. Gray
    Trollface

    They are overlooking an opportunity

    Instead of railing against encryption for the masses, the gilded elite should instead embrace this as an opportunity: official license for unlimited personal encryption. Renewable annually. At a modest, reasonable administrative and activation fee upon formal application, certification, accreditation, and approval.

    (Persons deemed to be security risks need not apply)

    1. Proud Father

      Re: They are overlooking an opportunity

      Please don't give them ideas.

    2. Neil Barnes Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: They are overlooking an opportunity

      You forgot 'with keys in escrow'. Just in case.

      Because of *course* the escrow holders can be trusted, right?

  8. Greg D

    All other arguments on this are irrelevant....

    ....in the face of the fact that if this were to pass, it would do exactly fuck all to help the spymasters (MI*, FBI etc) to catch terrorists. They will be the ones still breaking the law by using encrypted comms. Its the rest of us, law abiding (generally) citizens that will suffer! As always!

    1. Someone Else Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: All other arguments on this are irrelevant....

      They will be the ones still breaking the law by using encrypted comms, using bots to transfer the comms, so that Joe Numpty down the street gets busted.

      There, FTFY

  9. DJO Silver badge

    It's their own bloody silly fault

    Perhaps if GCHQ & NSA had not vacuumed up every bit of data on everybody while ignoring the laws about privacy and warrants and other bothersome details, we wouldn't be in the situation we are in now where everybody needs to encrypt everything just to maintain a semblance of privacy.

    This is suppression pure and simple, terrorists and the like don't use these avenues of communication; steganography, dead-drops and the such like are far more probable.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: It's their own bloody silly fault

      It's probably good thing that they did and a better thing that they were caught at it as it brings also the miscreants into the public eye. Perhaps, rational people will realize that encryption is a good thing overall, not to make things tough on the agencies but to make things tougher on those who want your information for not-nice purposes.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Head, meet wall...

    You might as well bang your head against a brick wall as talk sense to ANY politician once they see something as a vote-catcher.

    1. DrBobMatthews

      Re: Head, meet wall...

      Perhaps we could nip this whole process of political stupidity in the bud and also relieve our feelings at the same time by banging all politicans heads against the wall on a daily basis until they learn to behave.

  11. ukgnome
    Joke

    OK everyone

    From now on we will use this -

    A1 B2 C3 D4 E5 F6 G7 H8 I9 J10 K11 L12 M13 N14 O15 P16 Q17 R18 S19 T20 U21 V22 W23 X24 Y25 Z26

    3181311 208120 251521 621311518

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OK everyone

      20185181320 71922 2421119229 264262 2312228137 14261622 187 1926923

      QED

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OK everyone

      OK, so that's... let's see... CRKL THAT BEAEBA FBACAAEAH? CAHACAA THAT YAEU FUCAOS? I'll get it eventually ;-)

  12. Velv Silver badge
    Facepalm

    To quote the age old phrase

    "Outlaw guns, and only outlaws will have guns"

    Criminals carrying guns has increased since various bans were introduced over the last 40 years as more criminals are prepared to go on a job "tooled up". Now I'm not advocating we relax the current gun laws, but it just proves that for anyone attempting to break one law breaking other laws isn't really seen as an obstacle.

    1. DJO Silver badge

      Ah, but take that thinking to the illogical conclusion and then you have "anybody using encryption has something to hide and should be investigated" which of course does not stand up to critical thinking but when has that ever worried the Tory party.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "... which of course does not stand up to critical thinking but when has that ever worried the party in power."

        FTFY

      2. Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse

        While it's popular to bash the Tories don't forget...

        When has that worried any political party, we soon forget the lunacy of the last bunch, the ones who tried to mandate ID cards for every citizen, the ones who introduced RIPA etc.

        They're none of them innocent in the continual erosion of our liberties, our rights and expectations.

        Not a single one of them.

        This election has me terrified, I am in fear of my government, past, present and future because they're clueless fuckwits, lead by the nose by populism, by the spymasters, by anyone who has a loud enough voice and they're scared of not being friends with those people.

        What we need are true, honest conviction politicians who aren't afraid to make the hard decisions and not be seen as popular.

        What we have are a bunch of career idiots who live or die by the opinion polls and we are to blame, the X-Factor generation who believe that a pretty face and a few nice words are enough.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: While it's popular to bash the Tories don't forget...

          "... lead by the nose by populism, by the spymasters, by anyone who has a loud enough voice and they're scared of not being friends with those people.

          Don't forget the wealthy, corporations, lobbyists, the Daily Mail and of course the provisional wing of Mumsnet (might be covered by "loud enough voice").

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    GCHQ has ‘never had it so good’

    ah, but it is GOOD ENOUGH? Never!

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. ukgnome

      Re: They aren't banning encryption

      You need at least 3 trigger words and you have only used one

    2. soldinio

      Re: They aren't banning encryption

      Why do you need the number? They already have this post and the transcript of your phone call. Make the buggers use the info they have, don't give them an excuse to slurp more

  15. John Sanders
    Flame

    Policicians!

    """people like David Cameron who don’t like encryption"""

    Who do not understand what encryption is for

    Who do not like you having any freedom they will not deny themselves.

    "It is all for your own good, so we do not have to profile, and be warmz and fuzzy, and feel good."

    I have said it many times, this Politically Correct shit will kill us all.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The real problem

    The real problem here is: (a) our military and intel agencies (GCHQ, NSA, CIA, etc) really suck at human intelligence; and (b) those same agencies don't have a clue as to how to actually *defend* their citizenry from physical or electronic attack. Rather than admit either failing the agencies in question deflect criticism by making claims that they're being shackled by encryption and due process law. Of course a large number of people probably wouldn't mind living in a Soviet style police state if they could continue to watch "Dancing with the Stars", but there are those of us who put up with the fear, uncertainty and doubt (not to mention economic recession) of the Cold War so we could avoid that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The real problem

      I don't know if it's so much they suck at human intelligence as the adversaries are at a point where they can defeat human intelligence by turning the rules of "fair play" against civilized society. If the rite of passage for a terrorist organization is to be seen killing a soldier (committing treason) or some other point of no return, and where it's such a tight-knit group that everyone knows everyone else, it's kind of hard to insert a mole without breaking laws and moral codes.

  17. Oninoshiko
    Big Brother

    I propose a new law:

    All politicians must wear a wire and have everything they say sent to their constituents in a 24hr live feed. If they are not doing anything wrong, they have nothing to fear, right?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Unless they also have an explosive collar.

      1. Hey Nonny Nonny Mouse

        I'd vote for anyone who proposed refitting the Houses of Parliament with chairs like the ones in The Simpsons Family Therapy episode.

        It'd make BBC Parliament worth watching.

  18. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    "absurd"

    A rather tame description for "pants-on-head retarded" and "a clear statement of utter and irredeemable incompetence".

  19. Grikath
    Facepalm

    *ahem*

    "The FBI and intel agencies such as MI5 have been vocal in complaining that strong encryption technologies are paving the path toward a dark web where they will no longer be able to intercept terrorists' communications."

    Call me stupid, but if you are going to act up against whole nation states, the first thing you do is ensure the Other Side will have the utmost trouble intercepting your communication, and figuring out who you are..

    Fail that, and you're a bloody amateur.

    The moon is not the only harsh mistress, y'know..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: *ahem*

      The terrorist world is exceptionally Darwinian. Besides, they've also managed to turn stupidity into a virtue. Where else can you get people willing to turn themselves into bombs?

  20. GrumpyOldMan

    Nope. Don't get it.

    Remove encryption and put us back in the 80s or 90's. Except we're not in the 80s or 90's. So not only will every spook in the world be able to see the traffic in clear sight, but every crim; malcontent; terrorist; skiddie; nosey parker; disgruntled employee; Tom; Dick or Harry (sorry Toms, Dicks and Harrys out there - references are not directed at any real person or individual living or dead - just to be clear). like someone previously mentioned, I'd go back to cash-only, writing letters with a pen on paper and posting them, ditch all my internet banking, close my Amazon account (not a bad thing, really), get ride of my mode (hurrah!), and so on.

    Not to mention that it will totally undermine the city and all the good work and investment that's gone into making the financial powerhouse that it is - after all it's no good giving massive tax breaks to foreign investors then saying we're going to read everything you do and so can everyone else. Who'd come here for that? Unless they'll be exempt, of course...

    They'll be saying we can't use passwords or AV next....

    I voted for them last time - never ever voted for the other rabble who screw the country over every time they get in - but if this goes into the manifesto I'll vote for the Pub Landlord.

  21. tiger99

    Locked out of your own data...

    What Cameron should be banning is the misuse of encryption, especially if it locks YOU out of legitimate access to YOUR data. I would fully support and welcome that. I could not care whether GCHQ reads my often very boring emails, indeed they may occasionally learn something useful from them, as a few things I discuss may have educational value to a very few people. They will not learn anything of extreme personal importance, it just doesn't go by email, as far as I am concerned. Sadly, many others don't appreciate the risks, yet. Joe public can't reasonably be expected to be a security expert, but education and publicity of the risks will help.

    My main grumble about encryption is that with things like HDMI camcorders, the development of downstream processing, mixing and recording hardware and software is difficult or impossible, because the protocol is sewn up tight in NDAs and licence fees way beyond any FOSS developer. Allegedly this is so that the encryption (not needed on your own recordings, or mine, as it is the property of the people making the video and performing in it) demanded by the dreaded MPAA, M$ and various other nasty organisations is not compromised. Of course serious pirates just do a hardware bitwise copy of anything, encrypted or not, so the encryption is all pointless and only harms legitimate users. And yes I know that this is somewhat off topic, we are not discussing licensing and trade secrets as such here, but the underlying cause is an ill-informed obsession with encryption by the dinosaurs at the MPAA etc who have failed miserably to update their business models to work well in the internet age.

    I would have to pay $10k to get a licence to access the HDMI protocol, just to make a simple gadget, important to a very niche market, maybe 100 worldwide, costing under £100. So, the entire revenue, manufacturing costs and design costs would be gobbled up, just to prop up encryption that should be illegal. And, some people can't get what they actually need, but don't yet know that they need, because they don't know what benefits it brings them. As things stand they never will, and I can't even make the one unit that I need for myself.

    The UK, led by Cameron, has, if I recall correctly, recently relaxed copyright law to allow converting media to other formats, which of course has become necessary every time the standard format changes, VHS->DVD->BluRay, or LP/Cassette tape->CD etc. This was right and sensible, albeit rushed through just ahead of a contrary EU law, but in many cases we are prevented from doing exactly that, by a stupid, irrelevant and outdated obsession with encryption.

    Then there is the somewhat serious risk of losing the encryption key, and all data, in cases where storage is encrypted. And, having lost your business data, going to jail because you can't give the key to the police to allow your data to be read. There has to be a better way. Hardware measures involving locks and keys, biometrics, etc, perhaps.

    I would think that where data travels internationally (and sometimes it does, even between end points in the UK), there is a compelling need for encryption, as some countries (China, North Korea, US...) are entirely untrustworthy and can be relied on to steal both commercial and military information. But, within the UK, it may tip the balance unfairly towards the criminal element.

    I (and no doubt countless others) have the technology to make the computer equivalent of the "one time pad", the only truly unbreakable (without physical access) method of encryption, as far as I am aware. I have abstained from trying to exploit it since 1992, because I feared the inevitable visit from two large gentlemen from an unspecified government agency which always follows the release of such things. I think it has become even less likely that it will ever be sold as a product, but there is nothing to prevent criminals creating the same type of thing and using it. How does Cameron propose to stop that? A seemingly random block of data sent through the internet may be legitimate binary data, or if labelled as something like a jpeg, as modern art, or just about anything else. How do you actively detect and block only those data transfers which are encrypted communications? You must allow everything else to pass, with only minimum delay. And. if you don't block the transfer of the encrypted data, law enforcement after the event may be of no use whatsoever, or even be impossible, if it was sent from one PAYG mobile to another, or an internet cafe.

    Just some random thoughts as to why Cameron is both right and wrong. He is right to restrict encryption, but wrong in not going after all the places where it already causes a nuisance, and in not formulating clear methods of rapidly identifying and terminating only illegal communications. He really needs to make it illegal to forcibly encrypt a legitimate user's data. The other aspect of that, the HDMI specs, could probably be dealt with by the same EU court that forced M$ to publish their networking specs, if anyone would put up the cash to fund a legal team. Or, Cameron, who has, as I said earlier, quite properly loosened copyright to bring it into the digital age, could take the lead...

    This needs a lot more work at the political level, with good technical input, not just from GCHQ, but from security professionals, academics, end users and even some reformed crackers. It should be a comprehensive review of ALL aspects of the use of encryption, to see where it is already causing damage and should be eliminated, as well as where it may need to be made compulsory.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Locked out of your own data...

      "A seemingly random block of data sent through the internet may be legitimate binary data, or if labelled as something like a jpeg, as modern art, or just about anything else. How do you actively detect and block only those data transfers which are encrypted communications?"

      Actually, that's easier than you think. Any binary format has to have some kind of structure to it. That's why Linux and such can detect files by way of "Magic Numbers". Even executable programs have to be structured in some way so that the OS can load the programs into the appropriate places in memory. The two chief ones today are ELF (in the UNIX-based world) and PE (in the Windows world). Any binary blob that cannot be identified in any way is likely to be either encrypted data or actual random data (which can be the material for a one-time pad).

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    DONT WORRY

    there is nothing to worry about we will still be able to read the Reg as its only available on http and not https

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have to question this statement...

    If you have strong encryption between your web browser and your bank, you can’t have a man in the middle from the government wiretapping that.

    He can't be talking about the current web encryption then because I'd venture that you can have a man from the Government subverting that if they felt like it. It wouldn't be difficult for them, given they have hacked telecoms companies, to hack certificate authorities if they so desired. That is the main problem with the current system. If it's mass surveillance then subvert the CA and create your own signed certs, if it's targeted then add a trusted CA to the target machine. SSL observatory can part mitigate this.

  24. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    All cash machines use encryption, so Cameron et al is demanding the destruction of the entire non-over-counter cash-based economy.

  25. DrBobMatthews

    When a government no longer trusts its people, its time for the people to remove the government.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And if said government happens to be the most trustworthy lot available and the people STILL don't trust them? Meaning NO government can be trusted anymore and we might as well stock up the canned food and shotguns?

  26. grumpy-old-person

    Is Cameron nuts?

    Make encryption illegal and the "bad guys" will stop using it too?

    In South Africa we have very strict gun control laws but crime with firearms is common, simply because the criminals just ignore this and use unlicensed or stolen weapons.

    The proposal is nuts!

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A smart country would simply encrypt everything its citizens did. It would encourage its citizens to use encrypted e-mail and encrypted everything else.

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