WhatsApp Amber? Not getting the message?

Terrorism today, well it's just not cricket. "It used to be that people used to steam open envelopes or just listen into phones when they wanted to find out what people were doing," the Home Secretary lamented to Andrew Marr, days after the terror attack in Westminster. Now companies such as WhatsApp and Apple are providing a "secret place for terrorists to communicate". What's a spook supposed to do?

Yes, despite any credible evidence that the terrible events in Westminster were planned over WhatsApp or iMessage, the Home Secretary and a vengeful media have got it in for encrypted-messaging services.

To be clear, Amber Rudd doesn't want to ban encrypted messages, she just wants the spooks to have access to them. She doesn't understand that effectively amounts to the same thing break encryption for the security services and you also break it for the thieves, terrorists and oppressive regimes who want access to private messages, too. But then judging by her performance on Marr, the Home Secretary doesn't seem to understand much about technology at all.

"We're not saying open up, we don't want to go into the cloud," said Rudd, talking of "the cloud" as if it's a shady nightclub in Damascus. "I would ask [Apple CEO] Tim Cook to think again about other ways with helping us work out how we can get into situations like WhatsApp on the Apple phone," she added. "It's not necessarily Apple itself, sometimes it's WhatsApp and the other situations on it." Yes, we've all installed those 'situations' on our phone, and suddenly found ourselves in an awkward conversation with Jihadi John.

Still, Rudd's not stopping there. She's going to demand Google takes down websites publishing terrorist manuals seemingly confusing a search engine with web hosts and then, best of all, she's going to meet with "the best people who understand the technology, who understand the necessary hashtags". Perhaps they could start with #CluelessHomeSecretary?

Now, of course, it's very easy for me to sit here with 20 years of experience in technology and poke fun at the Home Secretary, in exactly the same way it's far too easy for someone with a career spent in investment banking and recruitment to be put in charge of the country's anti-terrorism unit. Which is why, having watched her stumbling television appearance, I tweeted the following:

I wasn't expecting a reply. But a day later, when having read my message and made a similar offer of his own, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales retweeted the message, I thought it might at least pique some interest. After all, he runs the fifth biggest website in the world. He's bound to know all the necessary hashtags.

So, I repeat the offer here, safe in the knowledge that at least one Conservative MP reads this column

(Hi Grant!). One hour with me, Jimmy and the best experts I can find: free of charge. Hit me on WhatsApp if you're up for it, Amber.

This article originally appeared in Web User

Main image credit: Bigstock

Barry Collins

Barry Collins is an experienced IT journalist who specialises in Windows, Mac, broadband and more. He's a former editor of PC Pro magazine, and has contributed to many national newspapers, magazines and websites in a career that has spanned over 20 years. You may have seen Barry as a tech pundit on television and radio, including BBC Newsnight, the Chris Evans Show and ITN News at Ten.