WhatsApp faces new encryption challenge after London attack

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WhatsApp is under new pressure to provide a government backdoor following the recent terror attack in London.

U.K. home secretary Amber Rudd said it is “completely unacceptable” that law enforcement agencies are unable to read messages and conversations that are secured by end-to-end encryption.

Catching up with rival messaging services, including Apple’s own iMessage, WhatsApp confirmed it would be introducing end-to-end encryption for all of its 1 billion users last April. This prevents anyone from intercepting messages in secured conversations.

Not even government and law enforcement agencies are able to bypass this, which means they are unable to monitor suspected criminals and terrorists who use WhatsApp. According to Rudd, this should not be allowed.

“We need to make sure that organizations like WhatsApp don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with one another,” Rudd told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.

“It used to be that people would steam open envelopes or just listen in on phones […] but in this situation we need to make sure our intelligent services have the ability to get into situations like encrypted WhatsApp.”

Former U.K. prime minister David Cameron made similar comments in 2015, shortly after the terror attack in Paris that targeted Charlie Hebdo. It’s a battle governments have been fighting since the rise of secure technologies that keep our data private.

Apple has been at the center of these battles in the past, of course. In 2015, the company became embroiled in a fight with the FBI when it refused to create a backdoor that would provide access to an iPhone 5c used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.

Privacy experts have spoken out in response to Rudd’s comments, explaining the dangers of introducing backdoors into secure apps. Jim Killock, chief of the Open Rights Group, said it would “make millions of ordinary people less secure online.”

“We all rely on encryption to protect our ability to communicate, shop and bank safely,” he added.

Major General Jonathan Shaw, chief of the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense, also criticized Rudd’s comments. He said the government was trying to “use the moment” to manipulate tech companies into making service less secure.

It seems unlikely that the government would consider a complete ban on encryption, or how it could be enforced. The U.K. has introduced new legislation that states tech companies can be compelled to de-crypt messages, but most would argue that is impossible.

Via: The Verge