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Vista technology could block anti-terror investigations

Tash Shifrin

Encryption measures in Microsoft’s forthcoming Windows Vista operating system could block the efforts of anti-terrorism and crime investigators, MPs have been warned.

Windows Vista will support the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chips that manufacturers are installing in PCs in a bid to restrict downloading of copyright music, videos or software, Cambridge University professor of security engineering Ross Anderson told the Commons home affairs committee.

“What this means is that by default your hard disc will be encrypted using a key that you cannot physically get at,” he said.

“An unfortunate side effect of this from the point of view of law enforcement is that it is going to be technically fairly seriously difficult to dig encrypted material out of systems if people have set it up competently.”

Professor Anderson told the committee hearing on the detention of terrorism suspects that there had been discussion about “whether there might in the medium term be some kind of obligation placed on computer vendors, hardware vendors like Intel or software vendors like Microsoft, to see to it that 'back door' keys be made available”.

The Home Office should discuss the issue now with Microsoft, rather than waiting for Windows Vista to be shipped in November, he argued.


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