A former head of MI5 has spoken out against curtailing use of encryption in messaging apps despite warning that Islamist terrorism will remain a threat for up to another 30 years.
Jonathan Evans said the terrorist threat to Britain was a generational problem, and suggested the Westminster Bridge attack in March may have had an energising effect on extremists.
Without encryption, everything sent over the internet from credit card details to raunchy sexts is readable by anyone who sits between you and the information’s recipient. That includes your internet service provider, and all the other technical organisations between the two devices, but it also includes anyone else who has managed to insert themselves into the chain, from another person on the same insecure wireless network to a state surveillance agency in any country the data flows through.
With encryption, that data is scrambled in such a way that it can only be read by someone with the right key. While some older and clumsier methods of encryption have been broken, modern standards are generally considered unbreakable even by an attacker possessing a vast amount of computer power.
But while encryption can protect data that it is vital to keep secret (which is why the same technology that keeps the internet encrypted is used by militaries worldwide), it also frustrates efforts by law enforcement to eavesdrop on terrorists, criminals and spies.
That’s particularly true for end-to-end encryption, where the two devices communicating are not a user and a company (who may be compelled to turn over the information once it has been decrypted), but two individual users.
But Lord Evans, who retired from the security service in 2013, told BBC Radio 4s Today programme that he would not support a clampdown on use of encryption.
His comments came after Amber Rudd, the home secretary, argued that internet companies were not doing enough to tackle extremism online. She has previously singled out the use of encryption as a problem.
Acknowledging that use of encryption had hampered security agencies efforts to access the content of communications between extremists, Evans added: Im not personally one of those who thinks we should weaken encryption because I think there is a parallel issue, which is cybersecurity more broadly.
While understandably there is a very acute concern about counter-terrorism, it is not the only threat that we face. The way in which cyberspace is being used by criminals and by governments is a potential threat to the UKs interests more widely.
Its very important that we should be seen and be a country in which people can operate securely thats important for our commercial interests as well as our security interests, so encryption in that context is very positive.
After the home secretarys intervention at the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism in California this month, the companies taking part said they were cooperating to substantially disrupt terrorists ability to use the internet in furthering their causes, while also respecting human rights.
Looking ahead, Evans warned of the threat of a cyber-attack against the internet of things the networking of physical devices, ranging from cars to lightbulbs to TVs as a major issue.
As our vehicles, air transport, our critical infrastructure is resting critically on the internet, we need to be really confident that we have secured that because our economic and daily lives are going to be dependent on the security we can put in to protect us from cyber-attack, he said.
But the threat of Islamist terrorism was likely to remain at the fore for 20-30 years, he warned.
Were at least 20 years into this. My guess is that we will still be dealing with the long tail in another 20 years time I think this is genuinely a generational problem, Evans said.
I think that we are going to be facing 20 or 30 years of terrorist threats and therefore we need absolutely critically to persevere.
He said the London bombings in July 2005 triggered an energising effect on the extremist networks in the UK, and thought there would be a similar feeling after the Westminster Bridge attack.
We did see a huge upsurge in threat intelligence after 7 July and I suspect that theres the same sort of feeling in the period after the Westminster Bridge attack that a lot of people who thought Id like to do this suddenly decided Yep, if they can do it, then I can do it.
Since the atrocity in March, there have been attacks in Manchester, London Bridge and Finsbury Park.
Evans, now an independent crossbencher in the House of Lords, also told the programme he would be surprised if Russia had not attempted to interfere with British democracy, after repeated allegations of Kremlin interference in foreign elections.
He said: It would be extremely surprising if the Russians were interested in interfering in America and in France and in various other European countries but were not interested in interfering with the UK, because traditionally I think we have been seen as quite hawkish and therefore I would be surprised if there had not been attempts to interfere with the election.
- Security Awareness - Encryption | Office of Information ... - October 15th, 2017
- Data Encryption and Decryption (Windows) - October 14th, 2017
- Trumps DOJ tries to rebrand weakened encryption as responsible ... - October 11th, 2017
- How to encrypt (almost) anything | PCWorld - September 22nd, 2017
- Private Internet Access | VPN Encryption - September 21st, 2017
- Encryption Substitutes | Privacy | Encryption - September 21st, 2017
- Data Encryption: Hardware & Software Security: Online ... - September 21st, 2017
- How To Enable BitLocker Drive Encryption In Windows 10? - September 21st, 2017
- PGP Encryption Tool - iGolder - September 21st, 2017
- encryption - How to encrypt String in Java - Stack Overflow - September 21st, 2017
- Encryption Software Market, Size, Trends and Forecast 2020 - September 21st, 2017
- Encryption Definition - Tech Terms - September 20th, 2017
- Why You Should Be Encrypting Your Devices and How to Easily Do It - Gizmodo - September 6th, 2017
- Black Hats, White Hats, and Hard Hats The Need for Encryption in Mining and Resources - Australian Mining - September 6th, 2017
- How can enterprises secure encrypted traffic from cloud applications? - TechTarget - September 6th, 2017
- Encryption Explained - Arizona Daily Wildcat - September 6th, 2017
- News in brief: Call to link encryption to ID; Facebook maps everyone ... - Naked Security - September 2nd, 2017
- 'Independent' gov law reviewer wants users preemptively identified before they're 'allowed' to use encryption - The Register - September 2nd, 2017
- High-Dimensional Quantum Encryption Performed in Real-World ... - Futurism - September 2nd, 2017
- It's Time to Replace Your Encryption-Key Spreadsheet - Data Center Knowledge - September 2nd, 2017
- Legislation to limit smartphone encryption 'may be necessary,' deputy AG Rosenstein says - Washington Times - August 31st, 2017
- Cloud Encryption Market by Component, Service Model, Organization Size, Vertical And Region - Global Forecast to ... - Markets Insider - August 31st, 2017
- Cipher Suites: Ciphers, Algorithms and Negotiating Security Settings - Hashed Out by The SSL Store (registration) (blog) - August 31st, 2017
- Encryption in Office 365 - Office 365 - August 29th, 2017
- Need-to-Know Only: Use Encryption to Make Data Meaningless to ... - Security Intelligence (blog) - August 29th, 2017
- Four strategies to prevent data encryption from hijacking your network - Digital News Asia - August 29th, 2017
- Amber Rudd is wrong - real people do want end-to-end encryption - ITProPortal - August 29th, 2017
- Why encryption is for everyone - IFEX - August 29th, 2017
- 4D quantum encryption successful in first real-world test - New Atlas - New Atlas - August 29th, 2017
- For the First Time Ever, Quantum Communication is Demonstrated in Real-World City Conditions - Futurism - August 26th, 2017
- High-Dimensional Quantum Encryption Takes Place in Real-World ... - Photonics.com - August 26th, 2017
- Hedvig Bakes Encryption into Software-Defined Storage Platform - IT Business Edge (blog) - August 26th, 2017
- Hedvig storage upgrade adds flash tier, encryption options - TechTarget - August 26th, 2017
- How to use EFS encryption to encrypt individual files and folders on Windows 10 - Windows Central - August 26th, 2017
- Cloud Encryption Market Worth 2401.9 Million USD by 2022 - Markets Insider - August 23rd, 2017
- To Protect Genetic Privacy, Encrypt Your DNA - WIRED - August 23rd, 2017
- Data Encryption in OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online - August 21st, 2017
- Researchers use encryption to keep patients' DNA private - Engadget - August 21st, 2017
- Additional proof that Lancaster County Commissioners should reconsider encrypting police transmissions - LancasterOnline - August 21st, 2017
- iPhone Secure Enclave firmware encryption key leaked - TechTarget - August 21st, 2017
- Encryption, speed push the modern mainframe into the future - TechTarget - August 21st, 2017
- Hardware encryption vs software encryption: the simple guide - Kroll Ontrack UK (press release) (blog) - August 21st, 2017
- Encryption Technology Could Protect the Privacy of Your DNA - Gizmodo - August 21st, 2017
- Beginner's guide to Windows 10 encryption - Windows Central - August 18th, 2017
- Encryption key for iPhone 5s Touch ID exposed, opens door to further research - AppleInsider (press release) (blog) - August 18th, 2017
- How security pros look at encryption backdoors - Help Net Security - August 18th, 2017
- The Laws of Mathematics and the Laws of Nations: The Encryption Debate Revisited - Lawfare (blog) - August 18th, 2017
- 72 percent of security pros say encryption backdoors won't stop terrorism - BetaNews - August 18th, 2017
- Ex-MI5 Boss Evans: Don't Undermine Encryption - Infosecurity Magazine - August 14th, 2017
- Despite end to end encryption, apps like WhatsApp, Messenger are still vulnerable to hacking: Study - Firstpost - August 13th, 2017
- What is Encryption? (with pictures) - wiseGEEK - August 12th, 2017
- Former UK security service head says weakening encryption would be too dangerous - 9to5Mac - August 12th, 2017
- News in brief: facial recognition planned for Carnival; spy chief backs encryption; ginger emoji planned - Naked Security - August 12th, 2017
- Avoid getting lost in encryption with these easy steps - We Live Security (blog) - August 12th, 2017
- Here's why IBM Z Mainframe Wants to Encrypt the World - Edgy Labs (blog) - August 10th, 2017
- Symantec Announces Plesk Will Integrate Symantec Encryption Everywhere Security Into Its Website Management ... - Business Wire (press release) - August 10th, 2017
- Australia: Shelve Proposed Law to Weaken Encryption - Human Rights Watch (press release) - August 6th, 2017
- IBM India Helps Create Breakthrough Encryption Technology That's Completely Hacker Proof - Indiatimes.com - August 6th, 2017
- Letter to Prime Minister Turnbull re Encryption and Human Rights - Human Rights Watch (press release) - August 5th, 2017
- Zscaler Finds Hackers Using SSL Encryption in Malware to Hide ... - eWeek - August 5th, 2017
- HBO Hack Highlights Importance of Encryption, Data Governance - eSecurity Planet - August 3rd, 2017
- UK flip-flop on encryption doesn't help anyone - CNET - August 3rd, 2017
- UpVote: Turkish regime jails IT trainers in encryption clampdown - Ars Technica UK - August 3rd, 2017
- Telegram messaging app strikes deal with Indonesia on encryption - Digital Trends - August 2nd, 2017
- Encryption is for 'Real People' - Human Rights Watch - August 2nd, 2017
- We don't want to ban encryption, but our inability to see what terrorists are plotting undermines our security - Telegraph.co.uk - August 2nd, 2017
- Real people don't need encryption - Fudzilla - August 2nd, 2017
- Ex-NSA boss questions encrypted message access laws proposed by Malcolm Turnbull - ABC Online - August 2nd, 2017
- Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg: WhatsApp metadata informs governments about terrorist activity in spite of encryption - CNBC - July 31st, 2017
- Commissioners need to rethink encryption - LancasterOnline - July 31st, 2017
- Ex-NSA chief Chris Inglis backs government's encryption push against Apple, Facebook - The Australian Financial Review - July 31st, 2017
- Oak Ridge licenses its quantum encryption method - FCW.com - July 31st, 2017
- iStorage diskAshur2 1TB PIN-protected encrypted external hard drive [Review] - BetaNews - July 31st, 2017
- Top 5: Risks of encryption backdoors - TechRepublic - July 31st, 2017
- Indian IT firms value scaling encryption, lag in adoption: Study - Economic Times - July 31st, 2017
- Industry firm patents new cyber encryption technology - Defense Systems - July 12th, 2017
- The Encryption 'Balance' Trump's FBI Candidate Wants Is Mathematically Impossible - New York Magazine - July 12th, 2017
- We need to protect encryption - ITProPortal - July 12th, 2017
- End-to-End Encryption is Key to Securing Government Databases - Nextgov - July 12th, 2017
- Quantum satellites demonstrate teleportation and encryption - physicsworld.com - July 11th, 2017