If encryption was a key

Posted on January 18, 2015 | https://andy-powell.net/?p=2397

Since the Charlie Hebdo attack in paris you may have seen stories in the press like this and this about David Cameron’s plan to ban encryption, which it seems President Obama now supports, specifically Cameron said:

“[I]n our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which we cannot read?”

From what we understand about this, it isn’t that they want to ban encryption outright, what they want is a backdoor to be added to all encryption, while my opinion on this is clear I wanted to put this into a context that might be mean something to those who are outside the IT industry or are not particularly techie.

What if?

Imagine someone create a lock, so secure that nobody could pick,  no locksmith, no police officer, nobody from the NSA or GCHQ… nobody.

This lock could be used to lock up your secrets, or if put on your front door would prevent anyone from accessing your home. Imagine this lock was cheap, and easy to fit and became popular throughout the country.

64 Million people all using this lock…

Now imagine that a small minority of those people were criminals , lets say 2000 or so (GCHQ are said to be tracking 2000+ [potential terrorists in the UK). Thats about .003% or the UK population.

Because the government could not access the locks of .003% of the population they decided to do something, and that something was to change the locks of 64 million people.

These new locks were just as secure as those that had been previously in use except for one small point, there was a skeleton key, a key that could open any of those locks.

Now obviously you couldn’t just have 1 key so a few copies had to be made.

The government needed it (5,899 million copies)

The Police needed it (139,110 copies)

The army needed it (191,410 copies)

… and of course from time to time we would have to give copies to our allies.

So given the number of skeleton keys some are bound to slip in to the wrong hands and if that happens the only solution is to change all the locks again…

So… does this skeleton key make your home, more or less secure?


Andy Powell is a website specialist with 20 years experience, he is also the founder of Hack Oldham, a non profit co-working and maker space, a digital trainer and a maker of things.

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