Security

Intelligence services must have access to encrypted messaging says Home Secretary

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After the London terrorist attack this week, where Khalid Masood killed four people in Westminster, the home secretary has said that there must be “no place for terrorists to hide” and intelligence services must have access to encrypted messaging services.

It is understood his phone had connected to messaging app WhatsApp two minutes earlier.

Amber Rudd said she would be meeting technology firms this week to ask them to “work with us”, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said authorities already had “huge powers”. There had to be a balance between the “right to know” and “the right to privacy”, he said.

Speaking to BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Ms Rudd said:

“It is completely unacceptable, there should be no place for terrorists to hide.

“We need to make sure that organisations like WhatsApp, and there are plenty of others like that, don’t provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other.

“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.”

All messages sent on WhatsApp have end-to-end encryption, meaning messages are unreadable if they are intercepted by anyone, including law enforcement and WhatsApp itself. So while Masood’s phone is believed to have connected with the app, police may not know what, if anything, was communicated.

The Facebook-owned company, which has a billion users worldwide, has said protecting private communication was one of its “core beliefs”.

Tim Cook, the chief executive of Apple which also uses end-to-end encryption, has previously said it would be “wrong” for governments to force Apple to “build a back door” into products.

But Ms Rudd said:

“I would ask Tim Cook to think again about other ways of helping us work out how we can get into the situations like WhatsApp on the Apple phone.”

Masood killed three people and injured 50 when he drove a car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge on Wednesday. He then fatally stabbed a police officer before being shot dead by police – all within 82 seconds.

 

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