Feeds

Government rejects call to secure snoop data

Mandatory crypto 'impractical'

Top three mobile application threats

Councils and police will continue to pass around sensitive data obtained using spying powers in the clear, after the government rejected calls to impose encryption.

The proposal was made in response to a Home Office consultation on the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), which allows hundreds of public bodies to obtain phone and internet records.

Such data were accessed by authorities using RIPA powers 504,073 times last year. They are seen as a very powerful investigative tool, likely to record who a person has been in contact with and where they have been. Personal information such as phone numbers email addresses are included.

A single individual within each public body empowered by RIPA is responsible for obtaining the data from communications providers, which they then pass on to investigating officers. According to Duncan Campbell, who acts as an expert witness on communications data, it is usually delivered and forwarded without encryption.

"The almost invariable practice is to sent data, unencrypted, as CSV or XLS files. From [communications provider] to [public body], and then on to everyone else. Only one [communications provider] routinely provides some encryption when downloading data, but this is not preserved at the next stage," he wrote on the UKCrypto mailing list.

"As you might expect, the idea of generating and sending hashes or another form of digital signature to certify the integrity of the data has not found any hold."

Responding last week to suggestions "there should be a mandatory requirement for all RIPA applications, authorisations and material obtained to be encrypted", the Home Office said increased security is not feasible.

"It would be impractical to require all material obtained through the use of RIPA to be encrypted," it said.

"However, it is perfectly reasonable for members of the public to want reassurance that all appropriate steps are taken to protect material obtained through the use of techniques under RIPA.

"All relevant public authorities have in place a variety of security measures, including physical security measures, security procedures, staff vetting and training, to ensure that material is protected from improper disclosure."

Despite the assurances, concern over the security of communications data obtained under RIPA is likely to increase with its increased use, and increased capture. New police guidelines require detectives to consider obtaining phone or internet records during every single investigation and the forthcoming Interception Modernisation Programme will involve terabytes of data storage for communications providers.

Of course, some public bodies using RIPA powers use encryption as a matter of in-house policy. Many RIPA requests for communications data are made by the intelligence agencies, for example, who use only secure networks. ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Putin tells Snowden: Russia conducts no US-style mass surveillance
Gov't is too broke for that, Russian prez says
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Reprieve for Weev: Court disowns AT&T hacker's conviction
Appeals court strikes down landmark sentence
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.