To prevent the draconian measures contained in Part 3 of the RIPA legislation from being implemented by the Blair government.
Software programs that are easy to use, that are available on the Internet for free, and that have already been downloaded by millions of people make it possible for data to be encrypted in such a manner that it is undetectable by the analytical techniques available to forensic science. People who use such software will never be caught by the proposed legislation should it be implemented.
Anyone who is strongly motivated to hide his data—which includes all criminals and terrorists—will make use of this type of software. Hence, the legislation won’t work as intended. It doesn’t punish the guilty.
Many PC users are not computer literate. They don’t understand that their computers may already be encrypting data by default, without their knowledge that this is happening. Given the Blair government’s record of maladministration—witness the recent scandal where the Criminal Records Bureau wrongly classified 1500 innocent people as criminals—innocent people will have their homes broken into, their computers seized, and they will then be asked to hand over their passwords so that the authorities can decrypt the data that is present on their computers. Almost everybody forgets passwords from time to time, especially the elderly. The result is that thousands of innocent people will spend up to two years in prison. Hence, the legislation won’t work as intended. It punishes the innocent.
The Blair government has been briefed by the security services and has been informed that the legislation won’t work as intended. This does not disturb the government since it is neither concerned with punishing the guilty, nor with protecting the innocent (note that with regard to the recent CRB scandal the government dismissed the 1500 victims as being “statistically insignificant”). However, what the government is very concerned about is the “spin” that can be generated in the medium term to boost its standing with the public, and thereby prolong the Blair premiership. The government sees the legislation benefiting it by (1) diverting attention away from its many failings; and (2) giving the impression that it is proactive in dealing with crime in general and with terrorism in particular. It calculates that any backlash from the failure of the legislation will take some years to make itself felt, and that by that time Blair along with many of his ministers will no longer be in office.
To stop legislation at such a late stage requires a major upwelling of public opinion together with a Parliament and a House of Lords that has received impartial advice on its consequences.
For people to be made aware that this legislation is coming and what its consequences will be a major campaign in the national press is required.
Parliament will not receive impartial advice from experts carefully selected by the government to support its own stance. Advice must be sought from independent academics with expertise in the security field, both in the UK and abroad.
Well you can do the obvious things like writing to your MP and to the press to express your concerns. In particular, you can write to those investigative journalists who might be interested in doing some research into these issues, and who would then present their findings to the public before the legislation is brought into effect.
As with all campaigns the most important thing you can do is to grab the media’s attention. The way we suggest you do this is to download some of the very same software that will defeat the act (there is no need to install it). If hundreds of thousands of people did this it would attract media attention and would demonstrate clearly the futility of implementing the legislation.
Some of you might like to install the software, encrypt some material using it, and then offer an open challenge to the government’s forensic experts, one monitored by the media, to determine whether or not you have hidden encrypted material on your computer. For example, in the presence of media representatives you might prepare a number of files, some of them encrypted and some of them not, and then challenge the government’s experts to determine which is which. You can be sure the government would decline the invitation for fear of certain embarrassment, and that demurral, in and of itself, would help to demonstrate the government’s malign and ulterior motives regarding the legislation.
However, the best use that you could make of this software is one that will not only help to defeat RIPA Part 3 but one that will also help to preserve the privacy of future generations, generations that are likely to face far greater intrusions into their privacy than prevail today. To help in this project all you have to do is to use the software to generate some files of random data (you don’t have to encrypt any material, and it’s all explained very clearly in the accompanying documentation). Give these files any names you like and place them anywhere on your computer. Email some of them to your friends, and get your friends to create some files of random data and email their files to you. You could even set up a web site or a newsgroup that allows anyone in the world to post and download files of random data. Now, admittedly, this is not a very glamorous activity. But these files are like the straws that make a haystack. And within this haystack can be hidden the needles whose occasional pricks remind those who govern us that their common, allotted task is to serve the people and not themselves.
There are many software programs that could be used to defeat Part 3 of the RIPA legislation. We have selected just one program. It’s called TrueCrypt. Over a million copies have already been downloaded worldwide, a statistic which should in itself demonstrate the impotence of the government’s proposals.
Go to web address www.truecrypt.org.
Click on the menu item called “Downloads”.
A page will be displayed containing two download links, the first for the Windows operating system, the second for the linux operating system. Click on the “Download” button corresponding to the appropriate link.
When a pop-up window appears, select “Save”, select the folder to which you want to save the downloaded file, and then click on the “Save” button. And that’s it.
TrueCrypt provides an “aleatory” defence against RIPA, and, indeed, against any similar legislation. This defence works because TrueCrypt makes encrypted material indistinguishable from pseudo-random data. And before the authorities can insist that you hand over an encryption key, they would first be obliged to prove to the satisfaction of a court that you were in possession of encrypted material. Depending on how TrueCrypt is set up it might be obvious that you have some pseudo-random data in an atypical location on your computer, and you might well be asked how it got there. Now, there are many computer processes that produce pseudo-random data, and you are not obliged by the legislation to account for the origins of every file on your computer that contains such data—given the tens of thousands of files on the average PC this would be an impossible task. However, TrueCrypt can also provide you with an excellent and highly plausible reason as to why you possess such a file of pseudo-random data irrespective of where it is found.
The first reason we selected TrueCrypt is that its functionality illustrates very well the inefficacy of the proposed legislation.
The second reason is that even if you are not concerned about the government prying into your personal affairs, then you may well be concerned about other people doing so, either because they may gain physical access to your computer, or because you may, by accident, download some spyware from the Internet. TrueCrypt can protect you from both these hazards, which is, in itself, a good reason to download and install it.
The third reason is that if the legislation is passed and you are a whistleblower, a member of an opposition party, or a member of some political pressure group, then you may well wish to keep your future plans hidden from the government. With TrueCrypt you can do this with elegance and with ease.