From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Thu Jun 06 2002 - 20:15:15 PDT

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    Forwarded from: "R. A. Hettinga" <rahat_private>
    --- begin forwarded text
    Status:  U
    From: Somebody
    To: "R. A. Hettinga" <rahat_private>
    Subject: RIP
    Date: Thu, 6 Jun 2002 17:02:27 +0100
    Thursday, 6 June, 2002, 08:27 GMT 09:27 UK
    Questions over net snooping centre
    Centre will be based at MI5 headquarters
    A controversial internet snooping centre to be opened in the summer by
    the UK Government could cause more problems than it solves, experts
    say. The National Technical Assistance Centre (NTAC) will decrypt
    computer data and intercepted internet and e-mail traffic as part of a
    drive against cyber-crime, reports the technology news magazine,
    It follows a much-criticised law, the Regulation of Investigatory
    Powers Act, which came into force in October 2000 and gave law
    enforcers sweeping powers to spy on internet communications.
    However, government plans to foil cyber criminals could backfire,
    according to a member of the Internet Service Providers' Association
    (ISPA), Stephen Dyer.
    "It could prove counter-productive. If the government is being seen as
    taking encryption seriously then it will drive criminals to use
    encryption more," he said.
    "Modern encryption is almost uncrackable, especially in the timescale
    needed to stop a crime," he added.
    Much to do
    NTAC is also running into other obstacles, as the RIP Act it is designed to
    enforce undergoes some serious rewrites.
    The government wants to plug into the internet and grab everything
    they want from it
    Stephen Dyer, ISPA Experts argue that the law was rushed through
    parliament without consultation with industry and as a result is
    Earlier in the year, the government admitted that the complex process
    of obtaining encryption keys had not yet fully been worked out and a
    public consultation would be necessary.
    Without a quick and easy way of getting hold of encryption keys, NTAC
    would "be dead in the water", said Mr Dyer.
    Black boxes
    NTAC will also depend on a controversial network of black boxes,
    installed in internet networks and feeding directly into the MI5
    building, where the centre will be based.
    The idea of such boxes caused outrage when it was suggested. Despite
    being included in the RIP Act, no internet service provider (ISP) has
    yet been required by government to install such a surveillance system.
    Officials now admit that secondary legislation will be necessary
    before ISPs can be made to install black boxes.
    Even then, ISPs will have recourse to an independent body if they feel
    it is too costly which could mean significant delays.
    Without such boxes, it will be impossible for NTAC will get its hands
    on web communications.
    Ultimately, the government's plans for NTAC might be just too
    ambitious, said Mr Dyer.
    "The government wants to plug into the internet and grab everything
    they want from it. That might work for the intelligence services but
    I'm not sure it will for law enforcement," he said.
    Loss of intelligence
    Despite this the government insists that NTAC is a necessary tool in
    its fight against cyber-crime.
    "Without an appropriate response, rapid developments in information
    technology with communications increasingly travelling from
    computer-to-computer and information protected by encryption will lead
    to a considerable loss of intelligence from lawfully intercepted
    communications and evidence from lawfully seized material," read a
    Home Office statement.
    Much of NTAC's resources will go into tracking terrorist activity and
    paedophiles, both of which use the web to communicate.
    The drive to step up surveillance of the internet has increased since
    the terrorist attacks on 11 September.
    In May, the European Parliament voted in favour of forcing phone
    companies and internet service providers to retain for years logs on
    what all their customers are doing.
    --- end forwarded text
    R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rahat_private>
    The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <http://www.ibuc.com/>
    44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
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