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Home Secretary Amber Rudd: Give security services access to WhatsApp

TECHNOLOGY companies must allow the security services access to messages in times of emergency, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said. It follows reports that Khalid Masood, the man responsible for the terrorist attack in London on Wednesday, used the WhatsApp service to send someone a message just three minutes before he mowed down 40 people on Westminster Bridge. The inbuilt encryption of WhatsApp means police and MI5 have reportedly not seen the contents of that message.

Doing the rounds on the Sunday morning political TV shows, the Home Secretary said technology firms must build in back doors to allow security services to eavesdrop.

Rudd also insisted WordPress, and Google, who run YouTube, must realise that they are now publishers rather than simply technology companies, and so should do more to tackle extremist videos and blogs.

Although the Home Secretary said she would like companies to do this voluntarily and independently, she refused to rule out changing the law to force their hand.

Rudd 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.

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

Asked if she opposed end-to-end encryption on Sky News s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Rudd said: End-to-end encryption has a place, cyber security is really important and getting it wrong costs the economy and costs people money.

So I support end-to-end encryption, it has its place to play.

But we also need to have a system whereby when the police have an investigation, where the security services have put forward a warrant signed off by the Home Secretary, we can get that information when a terrorist is involved.

She denied what she was describing was incompatible with end-to-end encryption, adding: You can have a system whereby they can build it so that we can have access to it when it is absolutely necessary.

Rudd said she was calling in a fairly long list of relevant organisations for a meeting on the issue on Thursday, including social media platforms.

I would rather get a situation where we get all these people around the table agreeing to do it, she told Marr.

I know it sounds a bit like we re stepping away from legislation but we re not.

What I m saying is the best people who understand the technology, who understand the necessary hashtags to stop this stuff even being put up, not just taking it down, but stopping it being put up in the first place are going to be them.

WhatsApp security debate must be informed or we will all suffer

In the hours after last week s terrorist attack in Westminster that claimed the lives of four people, the message from the Government was one of defiance. Our way of life will not change, they said . It will be business as usual .

The British values of freedom and democracy will prevail. If there is going to be a debate on messaging and security it should at least be an informed one

Yet only four days after Khalid Masood s rampage, the Home Secretary took to the airwaves to demand that messaging services such as WhatsApp tear up their security features1, allowing police to intercept communications as part of criminal investigations. It appears that the debate about how to balance civil liberties against the Government s responsibility to keep the British public safe is about to start up all over again only four months after the so-called Snooper s Charter became law.

The Investigatory Powers Act, you may recall, requires web and phone companies to store the web and browsing histories of all users for a year. It also gives the police and security agencies powers to hack into computers and phones and to harvest vast amounts of data although the European Court of Justice s ruling in December has tempered this somewhat. Despite this major change, Amber Rudd is now targeting message services such as WhatsApp, claiming they provide a safe haven for terrorists by making it impossible for communications to be decoded, thanks to end-to-end encryption.

Giving police access in certain serious cases might sound reasonable, but unfortunately it is not that simple. Tech companies say that building a back door or security flaw into encrypted messaging systems naturally make them less secure for everyone. Ms Rudd also sounded less than clued-up when she talked about the technology she is trying to reform.

On extremist material, she asserted that the Government would speak to experts who understand the necessary hashtags to stop this stuff ever being put up . As anyone who has ever used Twitter knows, this is utter nonsense. If there is going to be a debate on messaging and security, as the Government clearly wishes, it should at least be an informed one.

References

  1. ^ demand that messaging services such as WhatsApp tear up their security features (inews.co.uk)

Westminster security ‘must be stepped up’ after video reveals open gates

THE former Metropolitan Police Commissioner claims the “soft” outer ring of security at the Palace of Westminster must be enhanced after a video showed the complex’s gates were left open and apparently unmanned after Wednesday’s terror attack. The footage shows the aftermath of the assault on New Palace Yard which left PC Keith Palmer mortally wounded. As armed officers swarm the cobbled forecourt, having shot dead terrorist Khalid Masood, the imposing iron gate which allows vehicles to enter can be seen wide open.

No police1 officers are visible guarding the entry point, known as Carriage Gates, fuelling concern that the attack might have been worse had Masood been followed by accomplices.

Pedestrians are shown walking past and at one stage a courier on a moped appears to enter unchallenged.

Yards away, separate footage showed Prime Minister Theresa May2 being rushed from the building and into a waiting car.

Former Met Commissioner Ian, now Lord Blair and ex-House of Commons3 deputy speaker Nigel Evans both said security will now have to be stepped up.

Blair told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I am absolutely certain that there will be a review now of the outer soft ring that those of us who work at the Palace of Westminster are very used to.

“Always behind it is the inner core of armed officers, but PC Keith Palmer has paid with his life for that soft outer rim and I think that his family at least, and everybody else, needs the reassurance that will be reviewed.”

Blair refused to criticise the officers who apparently left the gate unguarded, describing them as “human beings” who will have been “gripped completely” by the attack while knowing the “cavalry” of armed officers was on its way.

But he added: “I’m absolutely certain that there will have to be changes.

“People are used to the fact that if they go into Downing Street4 they are confronted by basically closed gates and armed officers and I’m afraid that’s what will have to happen, but we’ll leave it to the reviews to see what it is.

“But I don’t think there should be shock horror about the fact the gates were open for a moment after that kind of attack.”

Evans described the outrage as “one of those things that by experience you learn” from.

He revealed that “lots” of MPs locked in the Commons chamber during and after the attack were discussing how to boost security in certain areas, but said far more checks are carried out at Carriage Gates than we he was elected in 1992 and a “bobby” would just “wave you through”.

The Tory MP said: “I’ve got no doubts whatsoever that there will be enhanced features of security, it’s happening on a regular basis, but following this tragedy security has got to be upped at the same time as still having a welcoming hand to members of the public to come and see how democracy works.”

The video comes after Scotland5 Yard’s anti-terror chief said current arrangements were “proportionate”.

On Friday, Mark Rowley told reporters that procedures for guarding Parliament6 had been designed so they were not “overly intrusive”.

Parliamentary authorities and the police are carrying out a review of security in the wake of the atrocity.

The complex’s main entrance has two sets of large metal gates allowing vehicles to go in and out of the estate and they have traditionally been left open during the day.

A pair of smaller, makeshift gates was introduced more recently with two police officers at each to check passes and allow cyclists, cars and delivery drivers to come and go.

Just inside the entrance gate, armed police are usually present and an unarmed officer sits in a booth by the exit.

Electronic ramps are depressed and barriers lifted further into the courtyard after passes are checked using handheld machines which flash up with a picture of the pass holder .

MPs’ vehicles are also checked for bombs before they can access the underground car park where the Tory MP Airey Neave was blown up in 1979.

References

  1. ^ police (www.heraldscotland.com)
  2. ^ Theresa May (www.heraldscotland.com)
  3. ^ Commons (www.heraldscotland.com)
  4. ^ Downing Street (www.heraldscotland.com)
  5. ^ Scotland (www.heraldscotland.com)
  6. ^ Parliament (www.heraldscotland.com)