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UK Lawmakers Want Backdoors. Also, They Want Telegram [Encryption Digest 26]

UK Lawmakers Want Backdoors. Also, They Want Telegram [Encryption Digest 26]

Close-up of a phone screen with the Telegram app prominently featured
January 10, 2020 | Katrina Dobieski

What are we saying

when members of the same party fight both for backdoors and stronger encryption? Maybe we’re all trying to live out the last shreds of our fantasy before some rubber really hits the road and we’ll be left with the choices we’ve made. While encryption law is now becoming a “thing” (see California, as of January 1) the jury’s still out for the industry at large, and it seems groups everywhere are enjoying deep, fresh breaths of E2EE freedom before we recontinue the debate.

The Tories in their pre-Brexit chats. A new smart home camera company on blockchain. Everyone at CES this week (we hope). So, the mood right now is – dichotomos. While opposition hasn’t been stronger (remember, we’re still riding off the wave of the Five Eyes Facebook letter only ten weeks ago), nobody is slowing down and 2020 starts out with end-to-end encryption being one of the hottest selling – and buying- points of the new decade.  



UK Lawmakers Want Backdoors. Also, They Want Telegram

There might be a lot of things less risky than having private Parliamentary conversations on WhatsApp. Apparently, having them on Telegram is one of them.

Home Secretary Priti Patel was outspoken in her denunciation of Facebook’s attempt to encrypt Messenger, signing, along with US Attorney General Robert Barr and members of the Five Eyes alliance, what equated to a “cease and desist” order calling on Facebook to abandon its designs. The open letter attempt was ultimately unsuccessful.

While her claims of being able to fully secure encrypted data while still providing backdoors have been widely criticized, the strongest and most silent opposition came from within her own party. The Tories faced an embarrassing debacle in 2018 when vitriolic Brexit-based messages from the party WhatsApp were leaked to BuzzFeed.

This year, the chat is being moved to Telegram, an app with several significantly higher security features and the option to auto delete messages after a certain amount of time. It’s hard to leak what’s no longer there.

When asked for a rationale behind the move, a PR respondent said that the number of maximum participants on Facebook’s WhatsApp simply wasn’t high enough—they'd need at least 100 more than the 256 spots offered.


Ironic though the move may be considering Patel’s hardnosed stance on end-to-end anything, the response is an understandable one, and may underscore the difficulty of putting this genie back in the bottle. Once end-to-end encryption privacy is an option, any negotiation feels like a less than option.

Bringing us full circle. Even though the company line may be “backdoors or bust,” seeing the highest strata of lawmakers chose to move from an encrypted app to an even more encrypted one certainly sends a signal.

A Signal?

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Blockchain-Based Ucam Goes Toe-to-Toe with Silicon Valley Giants. Wins Award.

It usually wouldn’t be smart to compete with mega corps like Amazon and Google in a technology game of their own making. But it also wouldn’t be smart to have a history of easy-pass breaches like Amazon Ring or Google Home, considering budget and their commitment to user privacy. Which is why one Silicon Valley startup thinks they can take on the multimillion-dollar home camera enterprise – and win.

Their secret? Blockchain.

Ucam developer IoTex earned a 2020 CES Innovation Awards Honoree for the invention, and for good reason. The startup provides a fully private, user-controlled platform with full end-to-end encryption, extra protection against brute force attacks by avoiding user generated passwords, and blockchain-based data authorizations.

The best part? You own the information. Ucam users—not hardware manufacturers or providers—will be the sole proprietors of their camera feed and be in control of its storage.

Said owner Raullen Chai in an email to VentureBeat, “The world deserves the Internet of Trusted Things. Our devices should work for us and not corporations.”

Plus, other cool gadgets you missed at CES:

Oh, the things you can hack. And for this reason, end-to-end encryption of our IoT devices becomes even more critical.

With the emergence of Smart Diapers (is it about time?) to a TV that rolls up like a carpet, if trends continue, we'll soon be hard-pressed to find something in our homes we’re not connected to. It’s savvy to keep in mind who owns that data, for what it will be used and how to protect it, but—in the meantime, let’s just geek.

  • A robot that scrapes cheese.
  • A robot that brings you toilet paper (finally).
  • Luggage that totes your children (again, finally).
  • A circle phone. Just that.
  • A “keyboard” that handles like a video game and plays like a piano. Can you say 18 joysticks?

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210 Stolen UK Government Laptops Tell Us Why We Encrypt

“Are you insured?” “Yes.” “By Survival?” “No.” [Pause] “I can’t take that ride.”

For anyone alive in the 90’s watching daytime television, that commercial not only burned a hole in your brain but also taught the importance of securing our most valuable assets. In this case, encrypting sensitive government owned Ministry of Defense data that could not only be pilfered on the web, but outright stolen.

In response to a Freedom of Information request by a UK news network, the UK’s Ministry of Defense revealed that they had 30 computers, 210 laptops and 80 removable storage devices stolen between October 2018 and September 2019, a roughly one-year time period. The devices, taken from army bases, held sensitive information that could compromise national security.

"they had stolen 30 computers, 210 laptops and 80 removable devices"

Least fortunate of all was the Ministry’s report of 37 cyberattacks carried out in 2017 alone. Black Hats included hackers, foreign spies gaining access to hardware, and nation state attackers.

As Luke Brown, VP EMEA at WinMagic suggests, "We live in a world where it is not surprising that military departments can be breached. What is needed is an end–to–end data protection platform that works across all infrastructures.”

We agree. And in purposes like this, we maybe they should come without backdoors.



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About the author

Katrina Dobieski
Katrina Dobieski

Katrina writes for Venafi's blog and helps optimize Venafi's online presence to advance awareness of Machine Identity Protection.

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