UK Demands WhatsApp Backdoor Access Following Deadly London Attacks

A terrorist attack in the UK has sparked a debate over whether encrypted services should provide backdoor access to law enforcement. The terrorist, Khalid Masood, killed four people in Westminster. It is believed that Masood used the encrypted communication service WhatsApp just minutes before the attack. That prompted UK's house secretary Amber Rudd to pressure WhatsApp and other services to rethink their approach to encryption.

"It is completely unacceptable, there should be no place for terrorists to hide. 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," Ms. Rudd stated on BBC One's Andrew Marr Show. "It used to be that people would steam open envelopes or just listen in on phones whey they wanted to find out people were doing, legally, through warranty."


Likewise, Rudd said that in this situation, it's imperative that intelligence officials can access encrypted communications such as the ones that occurred in WhatsApp.

The Facebook-owned service is used by more than 1 billion people in over 180 countries. WhatsApp advertises "fast, simple, secure messaging and calling for free" on Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, and Mac or Windows PC devices. It was reported last June that users collectively were making 100 million voice calls each day. The main attraction to WhatsApp is that it offers end-to-end encryption.

That's also the biggest criticism, at least from law enforcement. The idea of companies providing backdoor access is not new, nor is the pressure to do so. Apple recently came under scrutiny for refusing to help crack an iPhone 5c device that was used by a terrorist in the San Bernardino attack that left 14 people dead and 22 others seriously injured. Tim Cook contended that building in a backdoor would compromise the security of millions of iOS devices.

"I would ask Tim Cook to think again about other ways of helping us work out how we can get into the situations like WhatsApp on the Apple phone," Ms. Rudd added.

Masood kill three people and injured 50 others when his vehicle plowed through a crowd of pedestrians last Wednesday. He then stabbed and killed a police officer before being gunned down by police. The entire event unfolded in just 82 seconds.

Encrypted information contained in WhatsApp might shed some light on whether Masood acted alone or if he was acting on part of a larger terrorists effort.