Feeds

MPs told PGP 'incompatible' with Parliament network

Cryptographic conundrum

Build a business case: developing custom apps

MPs have been told that although they are free to install PGP on their parliamentary machines the technology is not compatible with Parliament’s remote access software, making its use impractical.

The curious response came from the House of Commons Commission via Lib Dem MP Nick Harvey in response to questions raised by Francis Maude, shadow cabinet office minister. Maude queried whether or not MPs are allowed to load Pretty Good Privacy encryption on their parliamentary computers. He was told that they could if they wanted to but advised that the software would frustrate support from the Parliamentary ICT (PICT (pdf)) department.

Worse still, the software is supposedly incompatible with key VPN (remote access) software, political blog Dizzy Thinks reports, adding an extract from the reply.

PICT has recently completed an evaluation of encryption software and Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) was found to be incompatible with Parliament’s current version of VPN (remote access) software. Therefore, this product is not recommended for users of that service. As part of the evaluation PICT has identified another product that can be deployed to members' loaned machines by PICT at no cost to Members. The software can also be acquired by Members at their own cost, if they wish to have it installed on machines that they have purchased through PICT.

We asked PGP for comment on the compatibility of its technology with VPN software in general and the parliamentary system in particular. The firm said there's nothing about PGP that ought to preclude its use with VPN software, a different class of security application. It's still looking into the specifics of the interaction between PGP and parliamentary systems.

"VPN Technology is a network transport technology, and PGP desktop is a piece of software that provides an encryption platform application," explained PGP marketing manager Jamie Cowper.

"The only interaction we have with a VPN, is to transport standard TCP/IP communications. As an application, we are not involved with any part of the VPN process (initiation, key exchange, management etc)."

Quite why Parliament's remote access software might be compatible with an alternative encryption package but not PGP - a widely-used package that's been available for over a decade - remains unclear. The more paranoid among you might say that the other (unknown) product might be easier to eavesdrop upon.

You may well think that. We couldn't possibly comment.

It's known that Colt Telecom supplies the connectivity and that MessageLabs handles the anti-spam and anti-virus filtering on the parliamentary internet connection.

The issue of whether MPs can exchange secure communications with each other and their constituents or not was thrown into focus by recent moves by the Metropolitan Police to get copies of email correspondence between Members of Parliament, without first getting a warrant. The request was made about requests between Damian Green MP and fellow Tory David Davis. Davis raised the issue in the House of Commons at the start of February, SpyBlog reports.

Green's constituency and House of Commons offices were searched in November, during which equipment including papers and computers was removed, when he was controversially arrested by police investigating alleged misconduct over leaked Home Office papers. The request for email correspondence seems to be a follow-up request in the same investigation.

Davis's questions in House can be read in Hansard here.

SpyBlog suggested that MPs sensitive about the privacy of the communications they exchange should publish a PGP key on their website. It's unclear how many have taken up this option. ®

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think

More from The Register

next story
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
'Things' on the Internet-of-things have 25 vulnerabilities apiece
Leaking sprinklers, overheated thermostats and picked locks all online
iWallet: No BONKING PLEASE, we're Apple
BLE-ding iPhones, not NFC bonkers, will drive trend - marketeers
Multipath TCP speeds up the internet so much that security breaks
Black Hat research says proposed protocol will bork network probes, flummox firewalls
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
Microsoft's Euro cloud darkens: US FEDS can dig into foreign servers
They're not emails, they're business records, says court
Plug and PREY: Hackers reprogram USB drives to silently infect PCs
BadUSB instructs gadget chips to inject key-presses, redirect net traffic and more
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?