Amber Rudd: ‘I don’t need to understand encryption to understand it’s helping criminals’

Written by Sam Trendall on 3 October 2017 in News

Home secretary steps up war of words with WhatsApp and others, suggesting that she is frequently ‘patronised’ by tech companies

The home secretary was speaking at an event taking place as part of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester this week  Credit: PA

Home secretary Amber Rudd has admitted that she does not understand encryption, but still intends to “combat” the technology and the assistance it gives criminals.

Speaking at a Spectator-hosted event at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester this week, Rudd was quizzed by an audience member about a subject that has become something of a bête noire for the home secretary. Earlier this year Rudd said that it was “completely unacceptable” that law enforcement and intelligence agencies cannot read messages sent via WhatsApp and other such encrypted platforms.

In Manchester, the BBC reports that she reiterated her opposition to what she sees as the harmful impact of the technology – despite her seeming lack of comprehension about what it does.

“I don't need to understand how encryption works to understand how it's helping – end-to-end encryption – the criminals,” she said. “I will engage with the security services to find the best way to combat that."

Related content

The home secretary said that she did not want to outlaw encryption entirely, nor did she want firms that use it to include so-called back doors in their code that allow the technology to be circumnavigated. But she would like authorities to be given easier access to content protected by encryption, when required.

Rudd also hit out at what she characterised as the condescension of big technology firms and other commentators.

"It's so easy to be patronised in this business. We will do our best to understand [end-to-end encryption],” she said. "We will take advice from other people but I do feel that there is a sea of criticism for any of us who try and legislate in new areas, who will automatically be sneered at and laughed at for not getting it right."


About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology

Share this page




David Banes (not verified)

Submitted on 3 October, 2017 - 12:31
There's a really good book called 'Cryptography For Dummies' that is an easy read.

Not as thick as... (not verified)

Submitted on 3 October, 2017 - 19:36
I fear "for dummies" may overvalued the audience intellectually

Dr Andrew Thorniley (not verified)

Submitted on 3 October, 2017 - 12:32
Frightening that a minister who is supposed to have briefings and knowledge about a subject makes ignorant statements. Encryption is a constantly evolving science and gets harder to decrypt all the time. Good luck to trying to legislate. It won't work.

Charlie (not verified)

Submitted on 3 October, 2017 - 12:37
This is why ministers should be plucked from experts in that field. It takes too long to understand all the complex areas to form and have opinion to give direction.

Add new comment

Related Articles

Interview: government chief security officer Campbell McCafferty on his mission to make government ‘the hardest target it can be’
12 February 2018

First-ever holder of GCSO post discusses how to remove barriers, break down siloes, and ‘deliver much more consistency’ in security strategy

Government, the public, and tech firms must work together to beat the real problem of fake news
31 January 2018

Rachel Neaman of Corsham Institute believes that facing down the challenge of online misinformation needs a long-term and wide-ranging strategy 

Government launches anti-terror tool to ‘stop video propaganda before it ever reaches the internet’
15 February 2018

Home Office claims machine-learning software developed in conjunction with ASI Data Science could be of use to smaller platforms such as Vimeo,, and pCloud