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Microsoft, Apple, Google Unite Against Ghost Spies in Messaging Apps

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Microsoft, Apple, Google Unite Against Ghost Spies in Messaging Apps 

GCHQ wants access to user conversations with a ghost user


Government agencies trying to get access to user conversations on various platforms isn’t something entirely new, but last November, the British spies at GCHQ came up with a rather unique proposal.

The organization required tech companies building messaging solutions to create what was described as a ghost agent that would be silently added to every conversation.

The purpose, GCHQ said, was to catch the bad guys who rely on the strong encryption of these services to talk to each other without being exposed.
No more privacy
But in an open letter publish on Lawfare, a total of 47 organizations, including here tech companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple, explain that the ghost member idea would substantially undermine user privacy, causing additional risks for those who connect to the platform.

“The GCHQ’s ghost proposal creates serious threats to digital security: if implemented, it will undermine the authentication process that enables users to verify that they are communicating with the right people, introduce potential unintentional vulnerabilities, and increase risks that communications systems could be abused or misused,” the letter reads.

“These cybersecurity risks mean that users cannot trust that their communications are secure, as users would no longer be able to trust that they know who is on the other end of their communications, thereby posing threats to fundamental human rights, including privacy and free expression.”

Because of the changes required by the British organization, the authentication process would have to be redeveloped from scratch, and this process could create additional vulnerabilities that can be exploited by malicious actors for other purposes, the companies warn.

“If U.K. officials were to demand that providers rewrite their software to permit the addition of a ghost U.K. law enforcement participant in encrypted chats, there is no way to prevent other governments from relying on this newly built system. This is of particular concern with regard to repressive regimes and any country with a poor record on protecting human rights,” the coalition explains.

Needless to say, all signatories want the proposal to be abandoned, and you can read the letter in full here.
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