UK Police and Encryption
From The Guardian:
Police last night told Tony Blair that they need sweeping new powers to counter the terrorist threat, including the right to detain a suspect for up to three months without charge instead of the current 14 days….
They also want to make it a criminal offence for suspects to refuse to cooperate in giving the police full access to computer files by refusing to disclose their encryption keys.
On Channel 4 News today, Sir Ian Blair was asked why the police wanted to extend the time they could hold someone without charges from 14 days to 3 months. Part of his answer was that they sometimes needed to access encrypted computer files and 14 days was not enough time for them to break the encryption.
There’s something fishy going on here.
It’s certainly possible that password-guessing programs are more successful with three months to guess. But the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act, which went into effect in 2000, already allows the police to jail people who don’t surrender encryption keys:
If intercepted communications are encrypted (encoded and made secret), the act will force the individual to surrender the keys (pin numbers which allow users to decipher encoded data), on pain of jail sentences of up to two years.