Crypto-confusion

After last week’s awful attack in London there appears to be a concerted attempt to blame all forms of communication for it.  The Mail did a special feature on Google being the terrorists’ friend because apparently you are able to search for “how to use a car for terrorism”.  Quite why it took 3 of their journalists to google “how to drive a car into people” is beyond me.

Anyway we now have gov MPs on telly demanding that Google and other tech allow the government “back doors” into their tech.  Despite literally thousands of tech people continually telling them that “it’s not possible” they still keep gannin an aboot it.

Then why is it impossible?  Simply that the tech relies on encryption.  If we didn’t have it then the internet wouldn’t work.  We’d have no “e-commerce”, no messenging services, no internet banking.  You can’t build a back-door into this because it’s then immediately an Achilles heel that any malign power could use to get in and hence break things.  It might be a crime group looking at breaking into banks, dodgy governments or companies doing cyber sneaking or inserting malign programs into computers around the globe.  With encryption a lot of this is impossible.  Without encryption the system just doesn’t work.

So besides the actual literal impossibility of carrying on with tech “back doors” what else is wrong with the idea?

There’s clearly a privacy issue – not a deal breaker for some maybe but there certainly is an issue for me.  The gov are not allowed to open your post without a warrant but you can be sure that T May and pals will be happy to give the police your emails and messages without one – if not today then tomorrow.  And who will do the looking?  No doubt it’ll start with the police but end up with local council staff looking into council tax issues or school admission fraud.  Hardly terrorist masterminds stuff.  Hell they’ll probably even end up having schools looking into kids’ messages seeing what bullying they can find.  And we can be 100% sure that no staff will go a-looking into what their neighbours are viewing online – or what they’re buying with those now-unsecure credit card payments – or what that kid who was rude to their son is up to on his mum’s PC – or whether that cute year 11 girl has any pics of herself in bikinis.  Nothing will ever go wrong with any of this!  And none of it is in any way foreseeable!

And then understanding that encryption isn’t hard to implement.  Whatsapp aren’t some super geniuses with arcane technology at their beck and call.  It’s quite a simple system that relies on some well known maths.  If Whatsapp goes down then there’s nothing to stop any vaguely tech savvy terrorists making their own messaging app.  The tech isn’t the hard bit; it’s just that the maths is impossible to break into without computers far more powerful than we have at the mo.

But anyway the UK gov are already the most invasive privacy breakers in the “free world” with the most stringent rules on pretty much everything from recording and storing internet logs and powers to demand you provide the passwords to your devices and encryption keys etc.  I know of one chap who’s in prison simply because he refuses to give up the password to an encrypted hard drive.  And if he won’t ever give up the key then they’ll put him straight back in prison again as soon as he’s out.  So that’s potentially a longer sentence for refusing to volunteer a piece of info than for murdering someone.

And we need to make everyone safer apparently.

Despite the fact that we’re safer than we’ve pretty much ever been.  Certainly much more so than when I was a nipper.  Never had all this guff when the IRA was a thing.

One day we may actually have people in charge who aren’t total morons adept at doing nothing more than breaking things.

Isn’t it wonderful on the day of an attack to hear “They hate you because they hate our freedoms” only to hear 2 days later “We have to take your freedoms away because……reasons”?

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