27 March 2017

wahtsapp encryption ukfastHome Secretary Amber Rudd has demanded internet and tech firms do more to battle terrorism, and that security forces should be able to access any data with a warrant, following the Westminster attack last week.

Whilst it is clear that this does not tally with WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption policy, Rudd commented that although she supports this end-to-end encryption, her concerns come after it transpired the Westminster attacker had sent a WhatsApp message minutes before the attack. A message protected by end-to-end encryption and, as it was sent on an iPhone, protected by the security of the phone itself; security measures that we all praise for keeping our own personal data safe.

Encryption is a controversial topic and a problem that I do not envy the government for having to solve! Privacy and security are incredibly important, and there needs to be a balance between the two as we are increasingly relying on data and digital communications.

Whilst Rudd and the government push for a back-door to data in these ‘life-and-death’ situations, the challenge comes with protecting that back door. Once you create this gateway it’s potentially open to anyone. What’s to stop a hacker getting in and accessing data of WhatsApp’s one-billion-strong global user base?

It’s like having a spare key to your home or business out there for anyone to find.

Hackers and cybercriminals are incredibly clever and finding and accessing a government back door is a challenge that I know would be a badge of honour for hackers even if they didn’t want to do anything with the data they stole.

I also have to question whether this is the right way to go about it. There are plenty of places to hide on the internet, without the need to tackle the mainstream communications apps and providers with weaker encryption regulations.

What do you think?

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