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Home » Hacking News » UK police want new computer powers

UK police want new computer powers

by Nikola Strahija on July 28th, 2005 The UK Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has called for new powers to allow police to tackle rogue websites, and make withholding encryption keys a criminal offence.

The new proposals are buried inside a long list of powers police would like the government to consider enacting through legislation in the light of the special demands posed by terrorist investigations. Most of these relate to conventional police powers, but one section of the official release suggests amending part 3 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) with a specific offence of withholding a software encryption key.

-Recent investigations have been made more complex by difficulties for investigating officers in ascertaining whereabouts of encryption keys to access computers, the release states, an admission that this has become a pressing issue for the authorities.

ACPO also wants powers to "attack" websites considered to be purveying terrorist or paedophilic content. -This issue goes beyond national borders and requires significant international cooperation. The need for appropriate authority and warranty is implicit, the proposal states. -This power has significant benefits for counter terrorism and overlaps with other police priorities namely domestic extremism and paedophilia/child pornography.’

It is not made clear in what ways such attacks would be undertaken - but this could include a mixture of electronic methods such as hacking a website directly, launching a denial of service attack, or requesting that the relevant ISP removes the material or closes the account.

Whichever method is intended, reaching a consensus on which websites could be construed to be "terrorist" is likely to prove problematic. It is also not guaranteed that making the act of withholding an encryption key an offence will make much difference in terrorist cases. It will, however, give police a new offence with which to charge and detain those suspected of being involved in terrorism, but whose involvement can’t be proven.

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