UK’s Home Secretary Amber Rudd is meeting with tech firms on Thursday to persuade them to cooperate in creating backdoors in end-to-end encryption of instant messaging tools for law enforcement to intercept private communication between terrorists.
Rudd is so far displeased with their efforts and wants them to assume responsibility for terrorist situations, according to an interview for BBC.
“It is completely unacceptable, there should be no place for terrorists to hide. We need to make sure that organizations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other,” she said. “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 warranty. But on this situation we need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into situations like encrypted WhatsApp.”
Concerns that law enforcement can’t intercept instant messages have increased after the terrorist accused of last week’s attack in London sent a WhatsApp message to an unknown contact a few minutes before the attack.
“This end-to-end encryption protocol is designed to prevent third parties and WhatsApp from having plaintext access to messages or calls. What’s more, even if encryption keys from a user’s device are ever physically compromised, they cannot be used to go back in time to decrypt previously transmitted messages,” according to WhatsApp, which says its top priority is protecting private conversations.
End-to-end encryption does not allow conversations to be intercepted, even by law enforcement. Unless companies cooperate, government agencies are willing to hire hackers to decrypt communication, even though it will be difficult, if not impossible. Rudd pointed out the importance of a partnership between tech companies and law enforcement, and the creation of backdoors in encryption.