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Former UK spy chief says encryption 'very positive' despite attacks

From Reuters - August 11, 2017

LONDON (Reuters) - A former British spy chief said on Friday that encryption of online communications was "very positive" for the country's national security interests despite the difficulties that it poses for security services attempting to tackle militants.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has proposed tougher measures to tackle militants online activities after four attacks in Britain this year while Home Secretary (interior minister) Amber Rudd visited Silicon Valley earlier this month to demand tech companies step up their efforts.

Jonathan Evans, who ran Britain's MI5 spy service from 2007 until 2013, said that while encryption did make attacks harder to stop, it also helped to prevent criminals and even foreign governments from hacking private data.

"I am not personally one of those who believes that we should weaken encryption ... whilst, understandably, there is a very acute concern about counter-terrorism, it's not the only national security threat that we face," he told BBC radio.

"The way in which cyberspace is being used by criminals and by governments is a potential threat to the UK's interests more widely... so encryption in that context is very positive."

Evans' views echo those of Robert Hannigan, the former head of the UK's eavesdropping spy agency GCHQ, who said in July that the government should work with companies for access to messages to ensure that systems were not weakened.

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