Threat Management, Threat Management

UK Government to ask for anti-encryption powers post-Manchester attack


The government will expect new powers in the wake of the Manchester attack. UK daily newspaper the Sun reports that the government plans to bolster surveillance capabilities should it win June's general election.

The government will reportedly ask Parliament to pass through laws which could compel the removal of encryption. Those new powers allow security services to issue ‘Technical Capability Notices' which would force companies to remove the encryption on the communications of terrorist suspects. Each notice will have to be signed by the Home Secretary and a judge in order to successfully.

In the Manchester  attack, Salman Abedi detonated a bomb, killing himself and 22 others at an Ariana Grande concert last week, making it the deadliest terrorist attack in the UK since the 2007 London bombings. Further investigation revealed that Abedi was likely not working alone, but was one part of a sophisticated terror network.

Such attacks often prompt calls for enhanced surveillance powers. It has already been highlighted that despite multiple opportunities, security services failed to stop Abedi, attributed by some  to a lack of resourcing.  The Liberal Democrats, currently campaigning ahead of June's general election, were urged to roll back their manifesto promises to “roll back state surveillance.”  

Theresa May, not only as Prime Minister but in her previous position of home secretary, has repeatedly called for such powers as a necessary tool in the fight against terrorism. She spearheaded the passage of the Investigatory Powers Act, a controversial bill which permits the bulk collection of communications and personal data.

This may end up merely being the latest battle in the crypto-wars between tech companies, anti-surveillance groups and the government. Previous iterations of the conflict include the aforementioned passage of the Investigatory Powers Act and, most notably, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation's attempts to get Apple to unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters last year.

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