United Kingdom government: Terrorists should not be able to communicate secretly via WhatsApp

The assailant involved in last week's London terror attacks that killed four and wounded dozens more reportedly used WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned, encrypted messaging service.

Brian Paddick, a home affairs spokesman for the opposition Liberal Democrats and former deputy assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan Police, said the security services could view "the content of suspected terrorists' encrypted messages".

Germany and France in particular are likely to back the motion, having suffered several high-profile terror attacks. The efforts by tech companies have been inadequate, despite an initiative announced past year, Rudd said.

Rudd's comments put WhatsApp and parent company Facebook in an awkward position: since WhatsApp rolled out default, end-to-end encryption on the app past year, it has said that no one including its own engineers can access messages sent through the service.

"It's completely unacceptable" that messages can't be opened, Rudd told the BBC.

In 2016, the similar issue came up between Federal Bureau of Investigation and Apple where Apple denied providing any information to Federal Bureau of Investigation related to Syed Rizwan Farook's account who was a terrorist involved in December 2015 attack in San Bernardino, California.

UK Defence Secretary Amber Rudd said on Sunday that intelligence services needed the ability to "get into situations like encrypted WhatsApp".

"It used to be that people would steam-open envelopes or just listen in on phones when they wanted to find out what people were doing, legally, through warranty".

Therefore, investigators are unable to see if Masood sent a message before the attack, and if so to whom-hence the United Kingdom investigators' request for a backdoor.

Disabling end to end encryption isn't as clear cut a process as Rudd seemingly thinks, and allowing security backdoors into online services greatly places users and their online security at risk, making them more vulnerable to cyber attacks.

"We do want them to recognize that they have a responsibility to engage with government, to engage with law enforcement agencies when there is a terrorist situation", said Amber Rudd, Britain's Home Secretary in an interview with the BBC.

In total, five people died - including the attacker who was shot by police - and 50 others were injured, two seriously.

Intelligence agencies can not find out what Masood said through WhatsApp before the London attack, despite the company saying it was "horrified" at the attack and pledging to co-operate with law enforcement throughout the investigation. The idea of companies providing backdoor access is not new, nor is the pressure to do so.

  • Leroy Wright