WhatsApp spyware

The ‘Five Eyes’ nations recently had a meeting which resulted in a pressure on Whatsapp and other messaging apps to provide government access to encrypted messages.

According to the reports by GOV.UK, the UK, and other international partners have warned the big tech giants to take user protection very seriously. Hence, design their services accordingly.

The security threats including sexual abuse and exploitation of children online are on the rise. Ministers from five nations, the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the US have avouched to work together with the industry to handle these threats.

As a consequence, there was a two-day summit, known as the Five Country Ministerial. The summit saw discussions over current and emerging threats which could undermine national and global security. The Home Affairs, Interior Security and Immigration Ministers of the Five Eyes countries participate in this discussion.

They focused on encrypted services and how they can decrease the risk factor for sensitive people.

The UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said:

“The Five Eyes are united that tech firms should not develop their systems and services, including end-to-end encryption, in ways that empower criminals or put vulnerable people at risk. We heard today about the devastating and lifelong impact of child sexual exploitation and abuse and agreed firm commitments to collaborate to get ahead of the threat. As Governments, protecting our citizens is our top priority, which is why through the unique and binding partnership of Five Eyes we will tackle these emerging threats together.”

Also speaking at the conclusion of the two-day conference United States Attorney General William P. Barr said:

“The Five Eyes partnership is vital. Throughout this week, we have had substantive, frank and positive discussions surrounding our shared duty to protect public safety, including those related to the internet.

Encryption presents a unique challenge. We must ensure that we do not stand by as advances in technology create spaces where the criminal activity of the most heinous kind can go undetected and unpunished. Indeed, making our virtual world more secure should not come at the expense of making us more vulnerable in the real world. We are grateful for the leadership of Home Secretary Patel in facilitating these critical discussions and shared a commitment to safety for all.”

According to Business Insider, the two-day summit at the UK was also attended by representatives of tech firms like Whatsapp’s parent Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Snap, and Twitter.

The press statement made by the UK home minister did not clearly mention access to apps but she indicated that encrypted messaging should be put under scrutiny as and when required.

Encrypting messaging is one of the safest ways to communicate online, only the sender and the receiver can read the messages shared between them. The government suffers here as this facility is also availed by criminals and they can easily use it to plan their horrendous acts.

Whatsapp came in light here as it is the most used messaging app across various countries. Facebook, the parent of Whatsapp has decided on extending the encrypting services to its Facebook Messenger and Instagram Direct as well.

Whatsapp did not comment on the matter immediately.

According to the reports, police officers and spies are asked to be given special access to encrypted chats by Whatsapp and other messaging apps that support encryption.

The encryption services took stronghold after big tech companies saw several security breaches. The UK agency, GCHQ, which keeps tracks of the communications, came up with a suggestion that the tech giants should find a way to add a police officer or any other official into the group chats.

The suggestion, however, is opposed by many companies, and civil society organizations. The intelligence and law enforcement agencies, however, are in favour of it.

The Five Eyes Summit is an annual event and will be next hosted by New Zealand in the year 2020. 

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