After Amber Rudd, who claims to be the Home Secretary, was subjected to the inquisition of the host on The Andy Marr Show (tm) yesterday and demonstrated that she did not know one end of Information Technology from the other, some in the press have been following her lead, showing that when Private Eye magazine told the wold “New Technology defeats pissed old hack”, there was more than a little truth in the claim.
So why did Ms Rudd’s fellow Tory MPs not have a quiet word with her? Surely there were plenty of them a little more clued up on the Web, smartphones, encryption, search engines and the like? Ah well. One look at the reaction of one average and perennial back bench Tory tells you all you need to know about that. So come with me into the alternate technological reality inhabited by (yes, it’s her again) Nadine Dorries.
The fragrant Nadine had plenty to say in support of Ms Rudd. The problem was that there was a distinct lack of intellectual heft underpinning it, as well as an equal lack of technical savvy. You think I jest? Consider this Tweet: “To help keep our streets safe, we need to rise up against companies like #Apple and #Whattsapp [sic] who provide space and comfort to terrorists”. She wants to rise up against the firm that made her phone.
That was an inauspicious start, and from there it went downhill in short order, as Ms Dorries then asserted ”#Apple not providing FBI with codes to unlock terrorists phones and #whatsap [sic] not allowing access security services is a dangerous principle”. Let’s take this nice and slowly: Apple CANNOT provide the FBI, or anyone else, with codes to unlock phones. That’s the thing that makes them genuinely secure.
Oh, and how on earth WhatsApp are supposed to have access to a product they didn’t build is, shall we say, a challenging proposition. Still onwards and, er, onwards, eh? “And to those with smart ass comments tell me what your point is AFTER you have been in the middle of and target of a terrorist attack”. This is otherwise known as inflating the soufflé beyond the limits of viability. Or, in more direct terms, taking the piss.
By this point, it had occurred to Ms Dorries that kicking Apple while being in possession of an iPhone might not be a good look. So she tried to square this circle by telling “Love Twitter and plonkers who point out I have an iPhone. If I ever commit a terrorist attack, please #Apple give security services my code”. Sadly, she failed once more. Apple cannot, repeat cannot, REPEAT CANNOT, give security services (or anyone else) her code.
And she still wasn’t for listening, even to Mark Wallace of Conservative Home, who tried to put her straight on the vulnerability of software back doors. “No - you just develop a terrorist related exception that's all or even one for grieving parents too caught up in this one size doesn't fit”. Let’s once more take it nice and slowly: a backdoor is a backdoor is a backdoor, whatever reason used to build it. It is therefore another security vulnerability.
But one should not be too harsh on Ms Dorries: she may be technologically inept, but she is by no means alone on the Tory back benches. That is why Amber Rudd is still Home Secretary - it’s even worse than the partially sighted leading the blind.