Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bring in three strikes, and the terrorists have won

For a while now, the default piracy/terrorism line has been that terrorists are making their money from flogging dodgy DVDs down the car boot sale. This has always had the scent of eau du unlikely - do you know how many wonky copies of Marley And Me you'd have to flog in order to even buy the briefcase to put your dirty bomb into?

Now, though, it turns out that MI5 are worried that a big crackdown on internet filesharing could help the terrorists. Not because filesharers would go back down the car boot sale to buy their copies of Rain by Mika, but because it would drive take-up of encryption:

Intelligence and law enforcement agencies have suggested public resistance to such prying could prompt many more to encrypt their internet connection and make monitoring more difficult, The Times reports.

As well as obscuring traffic to current analytical techniques, widespread encryption would also damage the case for the Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), an ongoing multibillion-pound, cross-government attempt to to increase surveillance of the internet.

"The spooks hate it. They think it is only going to make monitoring more difficult," a source involved in drafting Lord Mandelson's Digital Economy Bill told the paper.

I'm not quite sure that MI5 would really be that bothered - surely if the technology exists already, any half-decent terrorist would be using it already? Presumably the fear is that, at the moment, if you're scrambling your electronic doings, that might look a bit dodgy; in the future, for everyone sending plans to send a kitten packed with explosives into a kindergarten, there's going to be a hundred thousand people merely cloaking their search for a copy of The Ohio Players doing Rollercoaster. It's almost as if MI5 are arguing that the power to scramble online should really be left to the criminals.


Anonymous said...

Aha! An excuse to use a coded version of that popular internet anti-copyright police term - Gvdl uif SJBB!! Now I'm really confusing MI5 with my primary school encryption methods!

James said...

You do have to wonder about terrorists who don't think to encrypt their online activity. If we're going to be brought to our knees by anyone, I'd rather they were at least clever enough not to sit in EasyInternet logging into Amazon to search for 'nerve gas', bellowing "How many Rs in 'Sarin'?" across the room.

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