WhatsApp: Rather be blocked in UK than weaken security

BBC reports that WhatsApp says it would rather be blocked in the UK than undermine its encrypted-messaging system, if required to do so under the Online Safety Bill.

WhatsApp’s head, Will Cathcart, said it would refuse to comply if asked to weaken the privacy of encrypted messages. The app Signal previously said it could stop providing services in the UK if the bill required it to scan messages.

The government said it is possible to have both privacy and child safety. WhatsApp is the most popular messaging platform in the UK, used by more than seven in 10 adults who are online, according to communication regulator Ofcom. 

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Weakening the privacy of encrypted messaging will not only damage the security but it will also damage people’s trust in messaging platforms. If encryption is given a backdoor, large scale cyberattack and nation state opportunities are instantly created. If governments are given access to private messages, threat actors would without doubt also gain access to these messages.

Once cybercriminals are able to monitor these platforms, companies completely lose the trust from their users who would ultimately look to other more secure forms of communication. There are ways to provide security and child safety but requesting an entry point to access encrypted messages is effectively a quick way of breaking the internet.

The Online Safety Bill in the UK has been designed to help provide more protection for people when using the internet. However, the excessive tactics in trying to tackle specific online crime spells a worrying future of potential mass public surveillance and other more extreme knock-on cyber offences. There is also risk that other governments will be tempted to introduce similar regulations.

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