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[FYI] UK-NCIS: "crypto criminals"


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28 January 1999. Thanks to Anonymous (2). 


National Criminal Intelligence Service 

Press Release 

                           Embargoed until 16:30 Tuesday 26th January

                                                      26 January 1999

                     NCIS calls upon Government to ensure law
                          powers do not fall behind technology in
                                   against "crypto criminals"

The Director General of the National Criminal Intelligence Service
(NCIS)  today called upon the Government to ensure that it made it as
difficult as possible for criminals to exploit the use of encryption
for their own purposes. 

Speaking at the NCIS HQ in London, John Abbott said: 

"We fully support the lawful use of encryption, its use for
confidentiality will prevent various forms of crime: fraud, theft of
intellectual property and hacking. 

"Cryptography also clearly provides benefits to commerce, industry and
individuals. But it also provides new opportunities for criminals.
Criminals have always been quick to take advantage of any new
technologies and the have already started to exploit encryption in an
effort to defeat the work of law enforcement agencies. 

"A number of recent investigations into a variety of serious criminal
offences in the UK have been hampered by the discovery that material
which might otherwise assist the investigation, or be used in
evidence, has been encrypted. The problem is increasing. 

"We are therefore asking the Government to safeguard our existing
powers by allowing us to apply for access to the decryption keys where
we already have lawful access to material belonging to people strongly
suspected of serious crime. We are not asking for copies of
everybody's keys; nor are we asking for any new powers -- we are
merely asking that a copy of the key is kept with a trusted third
party so that if we need it, we can go to them with a warrant to
obtain it." 



Case Studies 

1. Early in 1998 police enquiries into an attempted murder and sexual
assault were impeded by the discovery of encrypted material on a
suspect's computer. The investigator was able to proceed only after
the material encryption key was discovered by the police amongst other
material seized from the suspect. 

2. There are numerous examples of paedophiles using encryption to
conceal illegal activity from the attentions of law enforcement. In
1995, for example, two suspected paedophiles were arrested in the UK
on suspicion of distributing child pornography on the Internet. Their
computer systems were found to contain pornographic images of children
and, in the case of the leading suspect, a large amount of encrypted
material. The indications were that the suspects had used encrypted
communications to distribute child pornography to contacts round the
world via email. Although both paedophiles were subsequently convicted
of distributing child pornography, the police investigation into the
leading suspect was severely hampered by the fact that he had used

3. There are already examples of terrorists in the UK using encryption
as a means of concealing their activities. In late 1996, a police
operation culminated in the arrests of several leading members of a
terrorist group and the seizure of computer equipment containing
encrypted files. The files held information on potential terrorist
targets such as police officers and politicians. The data was
eventually retrieved, but only after considerable effort. 

Interception of Communications Act of 1985 (IOCA) 

     The Interception of Communications Act of 1985 (IOCA) allows the
     Secretary of State to issue a warrant authorising the
     interception of communications on a public telecommunication
     system where this is judged necessary in the interests of
     national security, for the purpose of preventing or detecting
     serious crime, or for the purpose of safeguarding the economic
     well-being of teh United Kingdom. The Secretary of State
     authorises interception only when he is satisfied that it is
     necessary in order to acquire information which could be
     reasonably obtained by any other method. The Act contains a
     number of safeguards, including the provision of a Commissioner
     (currently Lord Nolan) and Tribunal who have wide powers to
     oversee the operation of the Act and investigate complaints. NCIS
     is solely responsible for providing interception facilities for
     the police forces of England and Wales. 

Search Warrants 

     Under a variety of legislation, including the Police and Criminal
     Evidence Act 1984 (PACE), the police may apply to the Courts for
     a search warrant under which material, including stored data, can
     be seized if it is covered by the warrant or where there are
     reasonable grounds for believing it is evidence of an offence or
     has been obtained in consequence of the commission of an offence.
     PACE also contains powers for the Courts to order the production
     of such material. 

     PACE also contains provisions to assist the police in seizure of
     computerised information. Section 20 of PACE states that powers
     of seizure conferred on a constable who has entered premises
     under statutory authority shall be construed as a power to
     require any information contained in a computer and accessible
     from the premises to be produced in a form in which it can be
     taken away and which it is visible and legible. 


     In April last year, Barbara Roche MP, Under Secretary of State at
     the Department of Trade and Industry, announced the Government's
     intention to allow the voluntary licensing of those bodies
     providing, or facilitating, the provision of cryptography
     services and to enable law enforcement agencies to obtain a
     warrant for lawful access to information necessary to decrypt the
     content of communications or stored data (in effect, the
     encryption key). 

     These powers will apply to those holding such information
     (whether licensed or not) and to users of encryption products.
     They will be exercisable only when appropriate authority has been
     obtained (for example, a warrant issued by a Secretary of State
     in the case of an interception of communications or a judicial
     warrant for the purpose of a criminal investigation). 

Media Enquiries 

Mark Steels, Head of Corporate Communications
Gail Kent, Public Relations Officer
Telephone: 0171-238 8431
or, out of office hours, on 01399 1133 ext 786600. 

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