British Prime Minister wants to ban Online Messaging Apps including WhatsApp

Pierluigi Paganini January 13, 2015

Prime Minister Cameron said that the UK would pursue banning encrypted messaging apps if the Intelligence was not given access to the communications.

At this historical moment, governments are facing increasingly dangerous cyber threats, but their activities are hampered by the large diffusion of encryption mechanisms.

Following the Snowden‘s revelations, several IT firms like Google and Apple are adopting encryption by design to avoid government surveillance, the same trend is observed for the principal applications, this evolution is complicating the investigations of law enforcement.

The British Government is evaluating to ban some Online Messaging Apps that could not allow law enforcement investigation, including the popular Snapchat and WhatsApp.

Early this week the Prime Minister David Cameron explained that the UK Government would pursue banning encrypted messaging services if national intelligence services were not given access to the communications.

The recent terroristic acts are increasing the fear of European Governments about the exploitation of the web for propaganda or for attack vectors, hacktivists and jihadists. The same concerns is shared also with overseas Intelligence, the US Government, for example, is aware that terrorists groups are training their members on best practices to avoid the law enforcement monitoring.

mobile apps banned by UK gov 2

Speaking before the House Armed Services Committee the US Defense is worried by the capabilities of the  ISIS members for keeping their communications covert.

Security and media consider the ISIS a group with great cyber capabilities, recently is circulated on the web a Training Guide for its members to prevent the NSA spying. The manual is titled “How to Tweet Safely Without Giving out Your Location to NSA” Manual. According to US officials, ISIS members are encrypting their communications and taking steps to avoid the US surveillance. Monitoring of communications is strategically for Intelligence activities, due to the limited resources operating in the territories occupied by the organization.

Many European politicians are demanding that Internet companies like Google and Facebook provide support Intelligence agencies by providing information about people’s online activities.

Mr. Cameron confirmed that if he will be confirmed in the next national election in Britain in May, his government would ban encrypted online communication applications that could be exploited for illegal activities and terrorism. Mr. Cameron pretends that national intelligence agencies will be able to monitor online users’ activities and their communications.

The government is planning to introduce a series of reforms included in a new legislation that would force telecom operators and Internet service providers to archive a huge quantity of data related customer’s online activities, including social network messages.

“Are we going to allow a means of communications which it simply isn’t possible to read?” Mr. Cameron declared  in reference to services like WhatsApp, Snapchat and other encrypted online tool. “My answer to that question is: ‘No, we must not.’ ”

Mr. Cameron motivated the ban with the need to protect his population from terrorist attacks and other threats, the ban could be effective at the earliest in 2016.

“The attacks in Paris demonstrated the scale of the threat that we face and the need to have robust powers through our intelligence and security agencies in order to keep our people safe,” he added.

Mr. Cameron hasn’t provided further information on how the British government could stop users from using the apps.

“We are concerned at the increasingly frequent use of the Internet to fuel hatred and violence and signal our determination to ensure that the Internet is not abused to this end,” European Union politicians said in a joint statement.

European Intelligence agencies have already had contact with the major US tech firms, but the company refused to provide any direct access to their systems to the agents.

“Last year, European officials also met with some American tech giants, including Microsoft and Twitter, to discuss how companies could control what was published on their networks, though the companies have resisted greater oversight by intelligence services.Yet in a sign that tech companies are coming under increased scrutiny, British lawmakers blamed Facebook in November for failing to tell the country’s authorities about specific online threats made by two men, who later killed a soldier in London in 2013.”reported The New York Time.

At the time I’m writing Facebook hasn’t commented on the accusations and confirmed that it had taken necessary step to prevent the diffusion of propaganda activities on his social network.

Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs –  Online Messaging Apps, Surveillance)

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