UN steps into Blackberry debate
Firms will just have to get used to it
The secretary general of the International Telecommunications Union has stepped into the lawful interception debate, saying that companies are just going to have to provide governments with access somehow.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Hamadoun Toure said that governments had the right to demand access to communications, and that companies would just have to find a way in which to provide it.
This stance isn't particularly surprising: the ITU is one of the more successful bits of the United Nations - it made international direct dialling possible, among other things - but it represents the interests of the 192 governments that make up the UN, not the telecommunications industry.
The industry isn't particularly against lawful interception, especially if the government pays for it as it does in the UK, but companies like RIM and Skype have designed a security infrastructure which doesn't lend itself to interception. India is now demanding that both Skype and Google install in-country servers, as Nokia has already agreed to do, but if the encryption is end-to-end then that's not going to help.
We've been here before of course: when Pretty Good Privacy was launched governments around the world tried to ban and/or control the spread of strong encryption with very limited success. The US export bans didn't stop anyone using PGP, but they do still prevent some countries from encrypting GSM calls (resulting in enormous amounts of fraud from cloned SIMs), and it's the mass adoption of encryption that worries governments.
PGP was too much effort for most people, and it never got properly integrated with the more popular email clients, but communications over Skype and BlackBerry connections are automatically encrypted beyond the wit of all but the most determined security forces.
The ITU has no regulatory power, and with Hamadoun Toure coming up for re-election soon it's hardly surprising to hear him saying what his members want to hear. Getting companies to provide for lawful interception is more difficult, and the debate will likely be a long one. ®
You can't trust government!
Government security workers have used security information to enrich themselves in the U.S.A.
Whilst those with intimate familiarity in the telecommunications industry have known what governments routinely do, surreptitiously, the current level of chatter is very healthy for more and more people are becoming sensitive to eavesdropping/monitoring done by governments.
RedPhone 0.1(voice)[uses ZRTP by Phil Zimmermann] and TextSecure 0.3 (text) are amongst several answers for Android users and defy government monitoring.
Secfone (software), Rohde & Swartz (Bluetooth hardware) and SnapCell (hardware) are others.
Using specific cell phones to call specific numbers stops governments building a database of contacts and using a pair of hand-phones as one-way communicators or split communications (A cell used for talk only to cell B; cell C used only to talk to cell D [A & D are one end and B & C are the other end]) is very effective, more so when they are paired using different carriers.
Developing countries, China excluded, definitely don't have the technology to beat these and even the U.S. capabilities are challenged.
Cell hygiene is essential (clearing registers, powering down periodically), Carrying cells across borders allows Plod and company to gather information such as the IMEA which can be used to build contact information.
Using calling cards is ineffective as all numbers are recorded, although dedicating one card to one called number increases difficulty in building contact databases (and not using different cards sequentially from one number).
IMEI number is semi-permanent
The IMEI number is a flashed serial number that is unique to every cell phone. IMEI number facilitates an important function; it easily identifies a mobile phone being used on a GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) network.
To increase the difficulty in nosy people creating a contact database this number should be changed.
IMEI numbers either come in a 15 digit or 17 digit sequences of numbers. These numbers can identify a handset. Currently the format of the IMEI is AA-BBBBBB-CCCCCC-D.
- AA - These two digits are for the Reporting Body Identifier, indicating the GSMA approved group that allocated the TAC (Type Allocation Code).
- BBBBBB - The Remainder of the TAC
- CCCCCC - Serial Sequence of the Model
- D - Luhn Check Digit of the entire model or 0 (This is an algorithm that validates the ID number)
There are on-line databases to check a phones status:
White Valid Mobile Station
Grey Mobile Station to be tracked
Black Barred Mobile Station
Any cell phone of interest to a third party only need be made Grey.
There are links for changing IMEI numbers such as < http://www.renjusblog.com/2009/11/how-get-new-imei-number.html >.
Appeal to the masses
"It's the mass adoption of encryption that worries governments."
Therefore, encrypt, and encourage everyone to learn how to. It is better that they fear us than that we fear them.