The UK government recently asked communication service providers to lift, or disable end to end encryption so that they have the ability to eavesdrop on online conversations.
It seems that the concept of encryption has been lost on the politicians and the government as they are still demanding backdoors to be put into services and products. During the late night House of Lords’ committee stage debate, the request was made on the Investigatory Powers Bill by Earl Howe. Howe is the governments deputy leader in the House of Lords, as well as the Minister of State for Defense. It was assured however, that there will be nothing to worry about as this will come with many “strong controls and safeguards,”.
“Law enforcement and the intelligence agencies must retain the ability to require telecoms operators to remove encryption in limited circumstances, subject to strong controls and safeguards, to address the increasing technical sophistication of those who would seek to do us harm,” Howe remarked.
The earl spoke in defense of a number of clauses in the bill that back the governments decision to ask communication companies to secretly remove encryption from its users. Amendments 92,102, and 103 would have removed those provisions.
“They are irresponsible proposals which would remove the government’s ability to give a technical capability notice to telecoms operators requiring them to remove encryption from the communications of criminals, terrorists, and foreign spies. This is a vital power without which the ability of the police and intelligence agencies to intercept communications in an intelligible form would be considerably diluted. Encryption is now almost ubiquitous and is the default setting for most IT products and online services. If we do not provide for access to encrypted communications when it is necessary and proportionate to do so, we must simply accept that there can be areas online beyond the reach of the law, where criminals can go about their business unimpeded and without the risk of detection. That Cannot be right,” Howe said.
How admitted that encryption is necessary to secure internet communications, but he restated that the government has a desire for backdoors to be put into all communication products sold or used in the UK.
Lord Strasburger, a peer among liberal democrats, broke it gently by explaining that there is no such thing as end to end encryption that has a middle man, like an ISP, can simply crack or remove whenever they are ordered to.
“One feature of end to end encryption is that the provider cannot break it; encryption is private between the users at both ends. Howe seems to be implying that providers can use only encryption which can be broken and therefore cannot be end to end, so the next version of the Apple iPhone would, in theory, become illegal,” he noted.
Howe seems to have just brushed these arguments, who just kept repeating the usual about encryption providing safe places for terrorists.
The bill as it stands today, would grant enormous powers for the new home secretary Amber Rudd to approve the interference in mobile and internet communications by law enforcement. A ‘double-lock’ authorization process applies, which means that a judicial commissioner must approve the secretary of state’s decision to give a notice, according to Howe, but requires no judicial over seeing.