A couple of weeks back, David Cameron gave the following quote:
"If I am prime minister I will make sure that it is a comprehensive piece of legislation that does not allow terrorists safe space to communicate with each other"
And on the surface of things, that seems fair. After all, right now, the Police and Intelligence services can issue a warrant and get access to postal mail and phone calls and who wants terrorists to be able to plot in secret?
Unfortunately, David Cameron's quote goes further and specifically targets internet encryption:
"In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which even in extremis, with a signed warrant from the home secretary personally, that we cannot read? “Up until now, governments have said: ‘No, we must not'."
This is a very frightening statement because it shows a lack of understanding of how the internet works.
For example, right now, as I type this I am on a secure connection, an HTTPS/SSL connection to blogger. Everything I type here is being encrypted and sent over the wire to where the blogger server is. This connection is encrypted thanks to mathematics. There is no trusted third party. There is no Royal Mail or British Telecom that holds a master key to access everything.
Now, lets say that David Cameron gets his way and, within the UK, there is a law that says all encrypted messages should be readable by the security services. Just how will this work when some services are outside of the UK? OK, America will play ball but what about if I put a server in Asia? This sort of thing is very easy to do with the abundance of cloud computing resources.
Also, what actually constitutes a "message"? If I connect up a secure, encrypted VPN to my work place and send out an email is that a message? Would that break Camerons' snoopers charter law?
What if my bank sends me a notification about a new product for my account when I logon to the their secure site? Is that a message?
To provide the security services with a "skeleton key of encryption" would require putting a genie back in the bottle that was released when Phil Zimmerman published PGP. To undo that now is impossible and, in many ways pointless.
Well, if encrypted communications are banned/have a master key why wouldn't terrorists send images and use Stenography
And if there is a master key to all encryption, what would happen if it got out? And, of course, one day it would even if no one released it. It would become the single biggest hacker focus simply because of the bounty of information they'd get access to with ONE encryption key.
Suddenly every single secure communication in the UK (except Governments probably) can be read by someone with access to that key. All that data, just there for the taking.
This suggestion from David Cameron is beyond ludicrous, shows a serious misunderstanding of how encryption works and misses out on the fact that the internet is a global phenomenon.
I suspect it's just a feel good sound bite but it should show that the Conservatives have no grasp on e-commence and nor do they have any experts that they have spoken to before hand.
This either makes them totally inept or very dangerous. Only time will tell.