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WhatsApp Fights Against Opening Encryption So Far

Image: WhatsApp Fights Against Opening Encryption So Far
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By Clyde Hughes   |   Tuesday, 28 Mar 2017 11:50 AM

WhatsApp will fight against opening its encryption to British government scrutiny the way Apple resisted in the United States – if its chief executive Jan Koum sticks to his guns like Apple CEO Tim Cook did.

British politicians and government officials have called on the online messaging application to give police and security forces the means to monitor terrorist communications in light of last week's attack on its Houses of Parliament, reported the Financial Times.

The attacker, British extremist Khalid Masood, was using WhatsApp before he went into his attack, authorities told The Guardian, but investigators can't access the encrypted data. Masood killed four people before he was shot dead.

WhatsApp had said in a statement that it was "horrified" by the London attack and that it was "cooperating with law enforcement."

Koum, however, has said in the past that it is impossible to give some people access to encrypted devices or messages without opening up an entry point for "bad guys" such as hackers or spies from other countries, noted the Financial Times.

Last year, Cook fought FBI and Obama administration demands to help crack the iPhone encryption of Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife went on the San Bernardino shooting rampage that killed 14 and wounded 22 in December 2015, reported ABC News.

"The only way to get information — at least currently, the only way we know — would be to write a piece of software that we view as sort of the equivalent of cancer," Cook told ABC News then. "We think it's bad news to write. We would never write it. We have never written it — and that is what is at stake here. We believe that is a very dangerous operating system."

The pressure has been building on Koum.

"It is completely unacceptable. There should be no place for terrorists to hide," Amber Rudd, Britain's Home secretary, said on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show. "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."

"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. But on this situation we need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into situations like encrypted WhatsApp."

WhatsApp has not publicly responded or pushed back against Rudd's comments.

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WhatsApp will fight against opening its encryption to British government scrutiny the way Apple resisted in the United States – if its chief executive Jan Koum sticks to his guns like Apple CEO Tim Cook did.
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