1 August 2017

Amber Rudd's encryption columnI have learned that it’s really important to only pass comment on something when you are an expert.

For example, if you need to know more about house renovations, you speak to a structural engineer. If you want to know about heart surgery, you speak to a thoracic heart surgeon. So it does concern me when the government and Theresa May divvy up responsibilities for highly complex advisory groups like tech because they don’t have people who have been at the forefront of this industry and been instrumental in shaping it.

Fundamentally, not everyone has the same level of tech knowledge. The challenge comes when the person responsible for tech security legislation has a limited understanding of what the real-world effects entail.

I would like to know who is advising the government at the moment on encryption

I would like to know who is advising the government at the moment on encryption. Especially having seen Home Secretary Amber Rudd restart the encryption debate with her column in the Telegraph this week. Alongside this she is visiting Silicon Valley to talk about counter-terrorism measures.

Writing in the Telegraph this week, Ms Rudd said that ‘real people’ don’t need encryption. It’s a statement that many have called ‘dangerous and misleading’. I couldn’t agree more. Encryption enables us to safely do business online, to communicate safely and to run so many areas of our lives nowadays.

I blogged some time ago about the Conservative Minister’s calls to internet firms to enable security forces to access any data with a warrant.

Whilst I support that they want to protect this country, of course, you can’t protect us by taking away one of the most important inventions of modern times. Encryption is one of the most critical inventions. It enables so much of modern life and society. We can’t begin to start blocking this because we are worried that people are using it to hide behind.

There are plenty of ways people can communicate without being seen on the internet

It concerns me that we’ve got people with their heart in the right place but they are actually tying both hands behind the backs of the British tech industry. It’s this industry that’s driving innovation and boost our digital economy.

Banning encryption would open up billions of vulnerabilities in every area of the web. Nothing would be safe online any more. At a time when there are conversations about Russia hacking the US and China having an extraordinary cyberarmy, we would be the most vulnerable country on the planet.

Ultimately encryption is as ubiquitous as glass! What will be next, banning glass because you can’t hear conversations on the other side of it?

What happens when they ban encryption or create a backdoor for WhatsApp? When they realise that it isn’t a tool being used by terrorists, or that criminals and terrorists have moved on to communicate elsewhere? Will the whole internet be a target?

I really don’t envy the government having to solve the issue of encryption. The problem of having these ‘back doors’ in encryption is that it’s great for security services to use to keep us safe, but what’s to stop sophisticated hackers from using them too? It would be the ultimate badge of honour for a hacker!

Undeniably something needs to be done to tackle extremism and terrorist communication online. But are the right people in charge of that job?


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