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WhatsApp encryption helps terrorists hide, says Home Secretary Amber Rudd

The UK Home Secretary, speaking on the Andrew Marr show, said that encrypted platforms give terrorists "a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other."

By Tom Ball

In the shadow of the recent London terror attack, British interior minister Amber Rudd has said that encrypted messaging is aiding terrorists and that law enforcement agencies should have access to encrypted platforms.

The recent London attack involved a vehicle being driven through a crowded pavement on Westminster Bridge, followed by the fatal stabbing of a policeman standing guard at the gate. It has been reported that just prior to the horrific attack, an encrypted message was sent by the killer.

On encrypted messaging services, she told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “It is completely unacceptable, there should be no place for terrorists to hide.”

“We need to make sure that organisations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other.

“It used to be that people would steam-open envelopes or just listen in on phones when they wanted to find out what people were doing, legally, through warrantry,” the UK Home Secretary said.

“But on this situation we need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into situations like encrypted WhatsApp.”

The point raised by Amber Rudd is one of many that have been sparked by previous instances of such crimes, in which vital evidence or leads could be obtained with access to encrypted messaging platforms.

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Amber Rudd targeted providers of encrypted messaging services saying: “What these companies have to realise is that they are now publishing companies, they are not technology companies, they are platforms and we need to make sure that that (hosting extremist material) stops.”

“We need to make sure that organisations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other.


On the other side of the argument it is strongly recommended by cyber security firms that any sort of back door will inevitably be exploited by hackers who are constantly developing attack methods.

READ MORE: Mozilla confirms half of web is now encrypted – but does that mean greater security?

Cyber defenders may also be in disagreement with demands to reduce security as the threat landscape is rife with highly advanced threats that are presenting a challenge to all cyber security platforms.

This matter has been under debate for an extensive period of time, with David Kaye of the UN’s Human Rights Council coming forward and claiming that the privacy granted by encryption was a crucial human right. Kaye argued that the necessity of encryption was in the abilities of governments to spy on citizens.

From a business standpoint GDPR will play into this equation, as data protection in particular will be integral to security strategies, and ensuring the best chance for evading cyber-attacks and breaches. This may prove a steadfast point of opposition to any suggestion that data protection should be made less air tight.

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