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U.K. police want more hacking powers to stay ahead of criminals

This won't go over well with privacy groups.


Patrick Howell O'Neill


Posted on Jun 12, 2015   Updated on May 28, 2021, 2:40 pm CDT

As encryption becomes more widespread, local police will need to follow intelligence agencies into the world of offensive hacking, according to a new report from the United Kingdom’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson.

“The police consider that, in an increasingly cyber-enabled environment, the need for them to use CNE [computer network exploitation, i.e. hacking] is inevitable,” Anderson wrote, in a document first reported by ZDNet.

The report blames former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who gave journalists a trove of secret agency documents, for the increasingly rapid spread of encryption, which it says is happening to the detriment of national security. The report attempts to provide insight into how the U.K.’s National Crime Agency views the prospect of using hacking during investigations.

The NCA “considers that targeted CNE could give the whole communications picture of a subject at the early stage of an investigation,” Anderson explained, “allowing a more targeted approach to those involved in the most serious criminality, and ensuring that those who adopt advanced encryption technologies remain within the reach of the law.”

Anderson then called for a debate on the future of police hacking.

The report also discussed the efforts of FBI Director James Comey and NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers to force tech companies to put backdoors in their encryption. This would effectively erase strong encryption—i.e. encryption that only the user can bypass—from the tech sector.

You can read the full report below.

H/T ZDNet | Illustration by Max Fleishman

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*First Published: Jun 12, 2015, 12:58 pm CDT