Open letter calls for UK to abandon chat services surveillance proposal
A proposal by the UK’s security agency, GCHQ, that would enable eavesdropping on encrypted chat services has been condemned as a “serious threat” to digital security and human rights, reports the Guardian. “In an open letter signed by more than 50 companies, civil society organisations and security experts – including Apple, WhatsApp, Liberty and Privacy International – GCHQ was called on to abandon its so-called ‘ghost protocol’, and instead focus on ‘protecting privacy rights, cybersecurity, public confidence, and transparency’. The proposal was first mooted by two senior intelligence officials, Ian Levy, the technical director of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, and Crispin Robinson, head of cryptanalysis (the technical term for codebreaking) at GCHQ, in November 2018.” They put forward a technique that would avoid breaking encryption, instead requiring encrypted messaging services to – in effect – “cc” the encrypted message to a third recipient, at the same time as sending it directly. Levy and Robinson argued that the proposal was “no more intrusive than the virtual crocodile clips” which are used today in wiretaps of non-encrypted communications. Opposing the plan, the letter argues that “to achieve this result, their proposal requires two changes to systems that would seriously undermine user security and trust. First, it would require service providers to surreptitiously inject a new public key into a conversation in response to a government demand. This would turn a two-way conversation into a group chat where the government is the additional participant, or add a secret government participant to an existing group chat. Second, in order to ensure the government is added to the conversation in secret, GCHQ’s proposal would require messaging apps, service providers, and operating systems to change their software so that it would 1) change the encryption schemes used, and/or 2) mislead users by suppressing the notifications that routinely appear when a new communicant joins a chat.” See more and open letter and commentary here.
- Monday, 17 June 2019