Computer Encryption and Mobile Phone evidence and the alleged justification for 90 days Detention Without Charge - Home Affairs Select Committee Oral Evidence 14th February 2006

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The Home Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons has now published the uncorrected transcript of the Oral Evidence it took on Tuesday 14th February 2006, as part of its examination of the controversial "90 days" detention without charge. proposed in the Terrorism Bill 2005.

Having heard and read this expert evidence before the Committee, we feel vindicated in our criticisms of the alleged justification for "90 days" outlined in the controversial Andy Hayman letter. which forms the basis of this Home Affairs Committee Inquiry.

They took oral evidence from Lord Carlile of Berriew QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation

Lord Carlile: "...Journalists on the whole, if those present will forgive me, are rather lazy and they like to have stories written for them, by and large, and do not like to look in rather dense resources,..."

[...]

"...I have said that the number of section 44 searches under the Terrorism Act could be reduced by 50% without damage to national security and the number of Schedule 7 stops at ports could be reduced by the same proportion without risk to national security...."

They took oral evidence on Computer Encryption from Professor Ross Anderson, Professor of Security Engineering at Cambridge University and chair of the Foundation for Information Policy Research, Mr David Lattimore, Technical Manager, Digital Crime Unit, LGC Ltd, and Mr Peter Sommer, London School of Economics.

Professor Ross Anderson: "...Encryption products nowadays tend to be either good or useless and if they are good then you either guess the password or you give up..."

[...]

"...given the extremely low prevalence of encryption use by bad guys, quite frankly you would be better getting after them for tax evasion or social security fraud...."

[...]

"Mr Lattimore: I was involved in NTAC. I am not going to go into too much detail about it. I set it up with a number of other people and I was operational in there for a number of years and our success rate was very, very good, but it is not just a matter of brute forcing encryption, there is a lot of work that goes in by a team of people that all work together, all with different skills and that is the way forward for dealing with encryption in the future.

Q136 Mrs Dean: If the police had twice as many computers and skilled operators, would it mean that they could achieve the results twice as quickly as they do now?

Mr Lattimore: No. The police would never ever be able to deal with this type of encryption because (a) they have not got the time and (b) they have not got the hardware to deal with it because you do need specialist hardware which most police forces cannot afford to purchase and that is the beauty of NTAC.

Q137 Mrs Dean: So what you are saying is that there are the resources available but the police have not called on them, are you not?

Mr Lattimore: Some police forces call upon them and some do not. Some see it as they have failed in what they are doing. Some used to use us all the time and our success rate was in the 70% range which was very, very good."

NTAC = National Technical Assistance Centre is co-located with MI5 the Security Service:

To provide technical assistance to UK law enforcement and intelligence agencies in order to assist serious crime investigations and national security activities. This assistance includes access to and delivery of warranted intercept.

Enquiries:

Tel: 0870 000 1585



[...]

"Q141 Chairman: Taking Professor Anderson's point, can you think from your own personal experience of a case where somebody or a team has worked flat out for 90 days?

Mr Lattimore: Yes, myself. I have worked on cases that have taken longer than 90 days to crack. I am not going to go into the techniques I use because I want to keep them out of the public domain. You do a lot of work in the background before you mount the attack on the encrypted data and once that work has been done you have got somebody else that may have to write a programme to attack the data, then you put it onto a very big computer and the work goes on. If it is not done after 28 days you are not going to get it done at all. It normally comes about very quickly once you have done the initial work. That work used to take me three or four weeks. I would be sat at my hard drive doing a lot of biographical programming on a suspect for three or four weeks. It is very time-consuming work."

[...]


"Mr Sommer: Trying to interpret Parts 1 and 2 of RIPA, whether it is content or communications data, is becoming increasingly difficult because of the problem of legal interpretation. This has all been drafted in terms of you can make a distinction between the voice component and the traffic component, who contacts who, when and for how long, and it makes it much more difficult when you are dealing with e-mails or web-based e-mails or voiceover Internet protocol or things like that. There are going to be problems which are completely unavoidable."

They took oral evidence on Mobile Phones from
Mr Darren Greener, Systems Technology Consultants Ltd, Mr Vinesh Parmar, Telecoms Forensic technical manager, Digital Crime Unit, LGC Ltd, and Mr Greg Smith, Principal, Trew & Co



"Mr Smith:One cannot use one particular technical problem to hijack everything as I do not think that is correct. If you obtain a mobile telephone that has no PIN or PUK connected to it, there is no reason why you cannot turn the evidence round within seven days. People are concerned that if they have a mobile telephone that has been password protected three or four times and that causes delays then everyone should quote the worst case scenario but that is not the case. We are not dealing with the worst case scenario. If somebody picked up 20 or 30 mobile phones you may find one or two are problematical but the others would not be a problem at all."

[..]

"Mr Smith: Yes, I would say that is quite correct. There is a section where, if you allow an individual or an individual is smart enough to put all the passwords and identity numbers in place, you can have on the 3G up to 16 different passwords which would take you a long time to crack. Most people do not bother; that is the truth of the matter, so 90 days, yes, but I think that must be scrutinised very carefully as to the reasons for that."

"Q153 Chairman: How long does it normally take for network providers to provide the necessary information?

Mr Parmar: It depends on the level of the crime. They have got to have five levels and they are graded one to five.

Q154 Chairman: What about if it was a terrorist case?

Mr Parmar: Level one is a threat to immediate life. So it really depends on whether the particular terrorist incident dictates that. If it is a level one incident then it is usually within two to three hours or, for the worst case scenario, it would be within 24 hours that the information would be available. That is not just obtaining data from the UK networks, that is also obtaining data from non-UK networks."

[...]

"Q166 Chairman: Can I just check one thing for my understanding? What I think you are all saying to the Committee is that the challenges here are not actually the handset issues. The challenge in terms of understanding and analysis is the records from the phone companies of the calls made and so on. Is that broadly right?

Mr Smith: Broadly speaking that is correct."

The Regulatiion of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 was mentioned, regarding:

  • the current prohibition on the use of Electronic Intercept evidence in court, (rather than for intelligence purposes)
  • the still as yet not brought into force Part III which deals with Encrypted data,
  • the increasing difficulties of distinguishing between "content" and "communication traffic data" under Part I and Part II.

Various NuLabour members of the Committee got the experts to admit that there could theoretically be cases where either computer encyption or mobile phone evidence gathering difficulties could posssibly take 90 days or more to investigate or analyse.

References were made to the letter by Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Andy Hayman, which which we thought worthwhile transcribing from the usual Home Office locked "no copy and paste" Adobe PDF format, in order to give our readers the chance to see just. how weak the justification for "90 days" was. Worryingly. this letter now appears to have been censored or removed from the Home Office website,

No references were made to Prime Minister Tony Blair's uninformed "Gigabytes to Feet" soundbites on the topic of the alleged amount of computer evidence as a justification for "90 days"

There was also no mention of Chancellor Gordon Brown's comments on extending the 28 days period, which has not yet even passed into law, under the monitoring of the Independent Reviewer i.e. Lord Carlisle, which Gordon Brown uttered in his speech on Monday 13th February. We wonder if Gordon Brown actually bothered to consult Lord Carlisle on this issue.

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4 Comments

Mr Lattimore: I have worked on cases that have taken longer than 90 days to
crack...

Then:
If it is not done after 28 days you are not going to get it done at all.

Bit confusing.  Also, since you can be locked up under RIPA for not providing
your encryption codes, is any of this relevant?

@ Dave - Mr Lattimore is talking about brute force or dictionary based password guessing, hence all the background biographical research about the suspect. He is not talking about breaking the encryption algorithms per se.

That does not contradict Professor Anderson's comments about the strength of encryption products either they can be broken easily or not at all or you have to be lucky with the passwords e.g. too short or re-used on weaker systems which can be broken quickly, or where there is a strong likelyhood that they will have been chosen from a book e.g. the Koean or the Bible, which can be loaded into the diictionary attack program.

You cannot be "locked up under RIPA for not providing
your encryption codes" , because, as was mentioned in the oOral Evidence several times, Part III of RIPA has still not been Commenced by Order i.e. brought into force even though the legislation has been on the statute books for over 5 years and has never been used.

Peter Sommer gave an explanation of perhaps why the Home Office have been dithering:

Q129 Nick Harvey: Would bringing in Part 3 of RIPA help?

Mr Sommer: I think it would. Obviously there are broader issues which I am not here to discuss that are human rights aspects to do with people not being forced to self-incriminate. At a practical level, bearing in mind the way Part 3 is supposed to work, it does go before a jury and if you say you have lost your key the jury have to decide whether you really have lost the key. It would be an important tool if only because you would be able to disrupt a suspect. I think you need to explore why Part 3 has not been brought in and that was basically because the Home Office was overambitious in producing its detailed proposals. There is very little difficulty in terms of legislating for stored data, in other words data found on a hard disc. They also wanted to introduce it for data in transmission, but you then run into problems with the techniques used by the financial services industry when they use what are called session keys, ie every time you transact the key changes and nobody knows what the key is at any one time, so forcing disclosure becomes difficult. What should have been done and maybe still should be done is to try and do the easy stuff because it is going to be helpful and we will leave it to some sort of think-tank people to come up with a solution to the more complicated stuff.

Mr Lattimore: The problem with Part 3 is that if I was a suspect and I had encrypted data on my computer I would quite happily go to court and take the two years because I know I am going to be out in a year's time. A terrorist or a paedophile is going to take the two years, that is the big problem.

Who is Mr Lattimore?

@ alf

Mr David Lattimore, Technical Manager, Digital Crime Unit, LGC Ltd

LHC Ltd. are the now privatised formerly Laboratory of the Government Chemist, and offer a wide range of forensic technical services, including DNA etc.

NTAC is the National technical Assistance Centre, which was set up after the introduction of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, supposedly to provide the Police with computer forensics and cryptanalysis capabilities, and internet snooping and interception capabilities (regulated as per RIPA) which, for some reason were not available from GCHQ.

They were, supposedly set up within secure premises run by the Security Service MI5, and came under the Home Secretary's bureaucratic empire.

Last year, they were operationally brought under the management of the Government Communications HQ (GCHQ) and under the Foreign Secretary's bureaucratic empire.

See
National Technical Assistance Centre (NTAC) subsumed into GCHQ in April 2006 ?

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Free Gary McKinnon - UK citizen facing extradition to the USA for "hacking" over 90 US Military computer systems.

Parliament Protest - information and discussion on peaceful resistance to the arbitrary curtailment of freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, in the excessive Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Designated Area around Parliament Square in London.

Brian Burnell's British / US nuclear weapons history at http://nuclear-weapons.info

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For those of you who find it convenient, there is now a Twitter feed to alert you to new Spy Blog postings.

https://twitter.com/SpyBlog

Please bear in mind the many recent, serious security vulnerabilities which have compromised the Twitter infrastructure and many user accounts, and Twitter's inevitable plans to make money out of you somehow, probably by selling your Communications Traffic Data to commercial and government interests.

https://twitter.com/SpyBlog (same window)

Recent Comments

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UK Legislation

The United Kingdom suffers from tens of thousands of pages of complicated criminal laws, and thousands of new, often unenforceable criminal offences, which have been created as a "Pretend to be Seen to Be Doing Something" response to tabloid media hype and hysteria, and political social engineering dogmas. These overbroad, catch-all laws, which remove the scope for any judicial appeals process, have been rubber stamped, often without being read, let alone properly understood, by Members of Parliament.

The text of many of these Acts of Parliament are now online, but it is still too difficult for most people, including the police and criminal justice system, to work out the cumulative effect of all the amendments, even for the most serious offences involving national security or terrorism or serious crime.

Many MPs do not seem to bother to even to actually read the details of the legislation which they vote to inflict on us.

UK Legislation Links

UK Statute Law Database - is the official revised edition of the primary legislation of the United Kingdom made available online, but it is not yet up to date.

UK Commissioners

UK Commissioners some of whom are meant to protect your privacy and investigate abuses by the bureaucrats.

UK Intelligence Agencies

Intelligence and Security Committee - the supposedly independent Parliamentary watchdog which issues an annual, heavily censored Report every year or so. Currently chaired by the Conservative Sir Malcolm Rifkind. Why should either the intelligence agencies or the public trust this committee, when the untrustworthy ex-Labour Minister Hazel Blears is a member ?

Anti-terrorism hotline - links removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

MI5 Security Service
MI5 Security Service - links to encrypted reporting form removed in protest at the Climate of Fear propaganda posters

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Secure Your Fertiliser - advice on ammonium nitrate and urea fertiliser security

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Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure - "CPNI provides expert advice to the critical national infrastructure on physical, personnel and information security, to protect against terrorism and other threats."

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Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) recruitment.

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Government Communications Headquarters GCHQ

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National Crime Agency - the replacement for the Serious Organised Crime Agency

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Defence Advisory (DA) Notice system - voluntary self censorship by the established UK press and broadcast media regarding defence and intelligence topics via the Defence, Press and Broadcasting Advisory Committee.

Foreign Spies / Intelliegence Agencies in the UK

It is not just the UK government which tries to snoop on British companies, organisations and individuals, the rest of the world is constantly trying to do the same, regardless of the mixed efforts of our own UK Intelligence Agencies who are paid to supposedly protect us from them.

For no good reason, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office only keeps the current version of the London Diplomatic List of accredited Diplomats (including some Foreign Intelligence Agency operatives) online.

Presumably every mainstream media organisation, intelligence agency, serious organised crime or terrorist gang keeps historical copies, so here are some older versions of the London Diplomatic List, for the benefit of web search engine queries, for those people who do not want their visits to appear in the FCO web server logfiles or those whose censored internet feeds block access to UK Government websites.

Campaign Button Links

Watching Them, Watching Us - UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign
UK Public CCTV Surveillance Regulation Campaign

NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card
NO2ID Campaign - cross party opposition to the NuLabour Compulsory Biometric ID Card and National Identity Register centralised database.

Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.
Gary McKinnon is facing extradition to the USA under the controversial Extradition Act 2003, without any prima facie evidence or charges brought against him in a UK court. Try him here in the UK, under UK law.

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FreeFarid.com - Kafkaesque extradition of Farid Hilali under the European Arrest Warrant to Spain

Peaceful resistance to the curtailment of our rights to Free Assembly and Free Speech in the SOCPA Designated Area around Parliament Square and beyond
Parliament Protest blog - resistance to the Designated Area restricting peaceful demonstrations or lobbying in the vicinity of Parliament.

Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans
Data Retention is No Solution - Petition to the European Commission and European Parliament against their vague Data Retention plans.

Save Parliament: Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)
Save Parliament - Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (and other issues)

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Open Rights Group

The Big Opt Out Campaign - opt out of having your NHS Care Record medical records and personal details stored insecurely on a massive national centralised database.

Tor - the onion routing network
Tor - the onion routing network - "Tor aims to defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal anonymity and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. Communications are bounced around a distributed network of servers called onion routers, protecting you from websites that build profiles of your interests, local eavesdroppers that read your data or learn what sites you visit, and even the onion routers themselves."

Tor - the onion routing network
Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress and Tor - useful Guide published by Global Voices Advocacy with step by step software configuration screenshots (updated March 10th 2009).

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Amnesty International's irrepressible.info campaign

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BlogSafer - wiki with multilingual guides to anonymous blogging

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NGO in a box - Security Edition privacy and security software tools

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Home Office Watch blog, "a single repository of all the shambolic errors and mistakes made by the British Home Office compiled from Parliamentary Questions, news reports, and tip-offs by the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs team."

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Reporters Without Borders - Reporters Sans Frontières - campaign for journalists 'and bloggers' freedom in repressive countries and war zones.

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Committee to Protect Bloggers - "devoted to the protection of bloggers worldwide with a focus on highlighting the plight of bloggers threatened and imprisoned by their government."

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Icelanders are NOT terrorists ! - despite Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling's use of anti-terrorism legislation to seize the assets of Icelandic banks.

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No CCTV - The Campaign Against CCTV

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I'm a Photographer Not a Terrorist !

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Power 2010 cross party, political reform campaign

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Cracking the Black Box - "aims to expose technology that is being used in inappropriate ways. We hope to bring together the insights of experts and whistleblowers to shine a light into the dark recesses of systems that are responsible for causing many of the privacy problems faced by millions of people."

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Open Rights Group - Petition against the renewal of the Interception Modernisation Programme

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WhistleblowersUK.org - Fighting for justice for whistleblowers