Amber Rudd Says It's "Completely Unacceptable" Khalid Masood's WhatsApp Messages Are Encrypted

UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd has demanded access to any encrypted message on any message service after learning that Westminster Bridge attacker Khalid Masood sent and encrypted Whatsapp message just before starting the attack in which he killed four people.

Rudd indicated she wants WhatsApp and other social media companies to do more to help the Government catch those planning terror - but it was her suggestion that she wanted help from people who "understand the necessary hashtags" that may become the most memorable moment of the media push. Which is why I'm calling in a lot of the organisations who are relevant to that this week to ask them to work with us to deliver the answer.

A senior United Kingdom official is asking that law enforcement should be given access to encrypted messages on WhatsApp and similar services, a demand that is likely to fuel an ongoing debate over whether companies should create backdoors into their encryption technologies for investigators.

Europol's director Rob Wainwright told the BBC Sunday Politics programme: "There is no doubt that encryption, encrypted communications are becoming a more and more prominent feature in the way that terrorists communicate, more and more of a problem therefore, a real challenge for investigators". There should be no place for terrorists to hide. "We need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into encrypted services like WhatsApp".

"But we also need to have a system whereby when the police have an investigation, where the security services have put forward a warrant signed off by the Home Secretary, we can get that information when a terrorist is involved".

"We need to make sure that organizations like WhatsApp - and there are plenty of others like that - don't provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other", Rudd said.

"They can not ge away with saying "we are a different situation" - they are not".

The government would do it all through "carefully thought-through, legally covered arrangements", she said, while not ruling out other action to force companies to cooperate.

WhatsApp activated end-to-end encryption by default last April, and with governments around the world looking for ways to combat the perceived growing threat of terrorism, technology companies are facing growing pressure to create some kind of backdoor access into their private communication services. "Those people have families and children, they should be on our side and I'm going to try and win that argument." she said. She said these firms had to take a more proactive role too.

"What these companies have to realise is that they are now publishing companies". "Even if he acted alone in the preparation, we need to establish with absolute clarity why he did these unspeakable acts, to bring reassurance to Londoners".

Rudd wrote that she was meeting with tech leaders next week to discuss options.

"I would much rather have a situation where we get all these companies around the table agreeing to do it", she said.

  • Carolyn Briggs