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GCHQs not-so-smart idea to spy on encrypted messaging apps is branded absolute madness

Nobody wants to be a third wheel. Unless youre a British spy.
Two of the most senior officials at British eavesdropping agency GCHQ say one way that law enforcement couldaccess encrypted messages is to simply add themselves to your conversations.
Its relatively easy for a service provider to silently add a law enforcement participant to a group chat or call, said Ian Levy, technical director of the U.K.s National Cyber Security Center, and Crispin Robinson, cryptanalysis director at GCHQ, in an op-ed for Lawfare.
The service provider usually controls the identity system and so really decides whos who and which devices are involved theyre usually involved in introducing the parties to a chat or call, they said. You end up with everything still being end-to-end encrypted, but theres an extra end on this particular communication.
Law enforcement and intelligence agencies have long wanted access to encrypted communications, but have faced strong opposition to breaking the encryption for fears that it would put everyones communications at risk, rather than the terror suspects or criminals that the police primarily want to target. In this case, two people using an end-to-end encrypted messaging app would be joined by a third, invisible person the government which could listen in at will.
This solution, Levy and Robinson say, would be no more intrusive than the virtual crocodile clips that lawmakers have already authorized police to use to wiretap communications.
Presumably that would require compelled assistance from the tech companies that built the encrypted messaging apps in the first place, like Apple, Facebooks WhatsApp, Signal, Wire and Wickr. That poses not only an ethical problem for the companies, which developed their own end-to-end encrypted services so that even they cant access peoples communications, but also a technical one, which would require the government to ask a court to compel the companies to rework their own technologies to allow government spies in.
It wouldnt be the first time the governments pushed for compelled assistance.
Only recently that the U.S. government lost its bid to force Facebook to re-architect its Messenger app to allow the government to listen in on suspected gang members. And not just the U.S. or the U.K.. Russia, the wests favorite frenemy, forced Telegram, another encrypted messaging app, to turn over its private keys in an effort to allow its intelligence agencies to snoop in on possible kompromat.
Suffice to say, the U.K.s plan has drawn strong criticism.


The conversation on exceptional access is a non-starter until the pro- side actually can come up with schemes that work that would satisfy them this is weak sauce: https://t.co/rYGBizvr9J
Joseph Lorenzo Hall (@JoeBeOne) November 29, 2018
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