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Who should be trusted with the keys to encrypted messages?

5 June 2015

This week the US federal government (who you would assume to have cybersecurity measures at least as effective as the UK government) suffered one of its largest ever losses of data as a result of hacking.

Meanwhile the UK government (already facing legal action in respect of the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act 2014 on the grounds of privacy) is reported as seeking to ensure that it is equipped with the necessary keys to open secure communications networks (a policy that has already led certain IT companies to threaten to leave the UK  on the grounds that it prevents them from offering encryption that is free of state interference.

If correct then, aside from the question of whether the government ought to be able to exercise the powers it seeks (or whether this is even practical where internet service providers may choose the territory in which they base themselves), it begs an inevitable question:

If a government department holds the keys to open encrypted and secure messages and hackers have shown remarkable ability to hack government departments…

How will the government department ensure that no one else gets their hands on those keys?

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Richard Nicholas

Richard Nicholas

Partner and Responsible for In House Lawyers

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