Crypto Backdoors: A Fantasy on 2nd-Order Consequences

1 minute read

So there’s this global pandemic and the best way we have to slow it down a bit so that healthcare services can keep pace is by avoiding contact with other people. So fair so far.

Now the UK’s Minister of Health has been diagnosed with the virus. The best advice seems to indicate that the Cabinet should no longer meet in meatspace. But the business of governing can’t afford to just stop dead in its tracks for a couple of weeks. So the Prime Minister calls up his Security Chief over at MI5 and says, “Andy, do you think you could provide us with a way to do Cabinet meetings with some of the fancy video-conferencing stuff.”

“Why, certainly Prime Minister,” replies Andy.

“Thing is,… we have to be sure it will be secure against,… you know phone lines being tapped or something? After all, we can’t have any Joe Soap listening in on this stuff, can we?”

“Ah,” says Andy, drawing a deep breath. “No, Prime Minister, we actually can’t guarantee that.”

“Why not? Surely those boffins over at GCHQ can come up with something clever?”

“Actually that’s just the problem, Prime Minister. The GCHQ boffins managed to convince you and the Home Secretary to backdoor all cryptography in the land, so that’s it, I’m afraid. With the backdoors in place so that us and GCHQ and SIS can listen to everybody’s conversations, I’m afraid there’s no way to be absolutely sure that somebody else won’t listen in on yours…”

Oh Dear.