As part of what one Member of Parliament calls “the most intrusive surveillance regime in the west,” the British government's Home Office is hoping to require ISPs to route all of the data that gets transferred over their servers through a 'black box.' In addition to spying on you, the box will also slow down everyone's connection speed. Sounds like fun.
Alright, so they say it won't spy on you, and we either know better than that, or we're just a bunch of paranoid nutjobs. Or both. Regardless, even if it doesn't spy on you, it's still open to exploitation from hackers that could put your data at greater risk than ever before. But just what is this mysterious 'black box?'
Basically, it's a scary term being used by the media to describe a device that would decrypt data as it's transmitted over the ISP's network, then separate the decrypted data from basic information like the sender and recipient, and when the information was transferred. The idea is that basic information like that will be enough to catch criminals and the like, and that the actual decrypted data can be disposed of.
Pushing aside our inner-conspiracy theorist, the process has the potential to leave a lot of very sensitive data wide open to hackers, and that includes sensitive communications like your email. Any sort of communications that take place over the internet are normally encrypted, meaning that they can't be deciphered by any third parties trying to but in, but the 'black box' would presumably leave that information perfectly readable. And as much as we hope that there will be some solid security on the device, it'll probably just be stored as a text file.
Aside from the obvious privacy and security issues, there's one other hole in the Home Office's brilliant plan: speed. A representative of the ISPs Association says that while their main concern is the fact that the plan is a totally ludicrous one invented by a group of old men who don't understand technology, the issue of speed is a pressing concern, too. Or, as the representative more eloquently put it, “We'd rather they told us what they want to achieve, then sit down with us to work it out.”
“If you're having to route all traffic through one box, it's going to cut down on connection speeds. The hardware can only look at a certain amount of traffic per second.” So, you've got a massive invasion of privacy, huge potential for exploitation, and snail-like speeds. Again, sounds like fun.
Since we like to end stories like this on a more positive note whenever we can, we're going to conclude with a statement from a Home Office spokesman. Aside from noting that no hardware or software has actually been issued, and that the law is meant to keep us safe from bad people, he also says that “The legislation is currently being scrutinized by parliament.” Hopefully that means that there's still time to turn it into something a bit more feasible, and take the whole Big Brother thing down a notch or two.
Source: Channel 4