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November 10, 2015

GCHQ chief debunks snooper charter myths, advocates encryption

News: Spy chief also calls for better dialogue between industry and government.

By Charlotte Henry

The head of GCHQ has hit back at critics of the recent Investigatory Powers Bill, insisting he does not want an end to encryption, or force backdoors into software.

Speaking at the Information Assurance conference, GCHQ director Robert Hannigan debunked what he called "myths" about the recent Investigatory Powers bill. He said:

"There are three myths in particular I want to confront. First is the myth that the Government wants to ban encryption."

"We don’t. We advocate encryption. People and business in the UK should use encryption to protect themselves."

However, Hannigan did state that information relating to national security and serious crimes should not be beyond the reach of the government.

Moving on to myth two, Hannigan said he did not want products to contain backdoors: "We have never said this and we do not want this. Products should be secure. We work with companies to help make them secure."

An accusation levelled at GCHQ is the encouragement and lack of disclosure surrounding vulnerabilities – the third myth Hannigan said as being the exact opposite to the truth.

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"In the last two years, GCHQ has disclosed vulnerabilities in every major mobile and desktop platform, including the big names that underpin British business."

Hannigan also called on the cyber security industry to improve. "The global cyber security market is not developing as it needs to", he said, "demand is patchy and it is not yet generating supply."

He said: "So we need, as a Government and industry dialogue, to work out: how to make the market work better; and -how to foster a national ecosystem that promotes cyber security and the skills we need automatically."

Minister Matt Hancock had taken to the same stage yesterday where he said: "This is no longer an issue for the IT department. It’s a boardroom issue, a cabinet table issue."

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