The new UK snooping facility which will be opened at the MI5 Headquarters will, according to news reports, run into significant problems and due to modern encryption techniques it will have trouble even capturing information in time for criminal investigations to take place.
The National Technical Assistance Centre (NTAC) will be used by the UK intelligence community to decrypt data sent across the World Wide Web and they intend to use this to bring on criminal procedures against individuals. This centre is using the powers brought about due to the Investigatory Powers Act that was passed last year, which allows law enforcement to examine web-based communication in the UK. This will work by attaching a network of 'Black Boxes' to the nation's network which will feed information into the NTAC.
According to the ISPA (Internet Service Providers' Association), however, consumers now have the ability to encrypt communications using advanced techniques that will mean the NTAC will take too long to decode the transmissions in order to use them in criminal investigations. A member of the ISPA states:
"It could prove counter-productive. If the government is being seen as taking encryption seriously then it will drive criminals to use encryption more" and then he adds "Modern encryption is almost uncrackable especially in the timescale needed to stop a crime".
The centre is also running into trouble obtaining encryption keys, as the process hasn't been finalised for obtaining the keys. Officials have now conceded that the initial act passed last year is insufficient to force ISPs to install the 'Black Boxes' and admit further legislation will be inevitable. This is clearly a government blunder which means the previous legislation is of little practical use.
The Home Office has said the NTAC is necessary, stating: "Without an appropriate response, rapid developments in information technology with communications increasingly travelling from computer-to-computer and information protected by encryption will lead to a considerable loss of intelligence from lawfully intercepted communications and evidence from lawfully seized material".
News source: BBC News