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‘You Can’t Uninvent Encryption’, Cybersecurity Experts Tell Amber Rudd

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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IP EXPO 2017: Cybersecurity panel aren’t impressed with Home Secretary Amber Rudd’s renewed calls for an encryption backdoor

Cybersecurity experts have criticised Home Secretary Amber Rudd for her belief that she doesn’t need to understand encryption to demand technology companies change it so authorities can access the content of communications.

The UK government, along with other governments around the world, have called for backdoors that would allow them to see encrypted messages sent and received by suspected terrorists amid concerns such tools are being used to plot attacks.

IP EXPO security panel

Amber Rudd encryption

However tech experts have said any such move would undermine encryption, which in any case can not be uninvented. Others have argued that if mainstream apps like WhatsApp were forced to introduce backdoors, they would simply move onto other platforms that are more difficult to track.

Rudd has said this is “patronising” but a security panel at IP EXPO in London had little sympathy.

“Amber Rudd doesn’t even understand the statement she’s making,” argued Rik Ferguson, head of security research at Trend Micro. “It’s the same as saying car manufacturers are helping terrorists by making cars [that are used to stage attacks].”

Politicians are getting bad advice,” argued Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure, who said that it was easy to pick up a book that would describe how to build uncrackable encryption. “You can’t put the encryption cat back in the bag and you can’t un-invent it.”

Ferguson and Hyponnen were joined on stage by Sophos’s James Lyne and chair Wendy Nather from Duo Security for a wide-ranging discussion about the present and future state of cybersecurity. You can read more on that on Silicon later this week.

Quiz: What do you know about cybersecurity in 2017?