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Critisised Cameron may not get encrypted communications wishes

Public sector organisations may be given encrypted connections over its secure communications network known as the Public Services Network (PSN).

However, the news comes shortly after Prime Minister David Cameron declared his intentions to ban encrypted communications which cannot be read by law-enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Many have criticised the PM’s plans, which might see popular apps such as Snapchat and WhatsApp banned, including the Open Rights Group.

“Cameron’s plans appear dangerous, ill-thought out and scary,” claimed the organisation’s executive director Jim Killock.

“Having the power to undermine encryption will have consequences for everyone’s personal security. It could affect not only our personal communications but also the security of sensitive information such as bank records, making us all more vulnerable to criminal attacks,” Killock added.

Now, the public sector itself has joined those who view encryption as a good and essential thing to have after PSN CTO James Duncan included encrypted connections in a blog post about improving the Network.

“We need to acknowledge the fact that the majority of customers wishing to connect to the PSN already have Internet connections, the fact that more and more government services are being moved online and that our current connection options do not take advantage of or enable this,” claimed Duncan.

“We need to embrace the Internet as a transit method for data that is, under certain constraints, suitable for official. To that end, we’re creating an option for connectivity that allows customers to connect using suitable encryption via the Internet,” he added.

According to the PSN CTO, the move to encrypted communication will broaden the accessible market for suppliers and increase the number of consumers on the network.

PSNGB Wants Common Platform

However, Phil Gibson, Chair of the representative body for PSN supplier PSNGB, feels that Duncan’s blog post is a little lacking and simplifies what the PSN actually is too much.

Gibson acknowledges the Network was primarily designed to save money by standardising services and creating a more competitive market.

“Incorporating Internet access was always in the plan and will no doubt deliver further savings as well, crucially, extending the reach to a wider set of users,” the Chair claimed.

“But PSN was also designed to create a safe, trusted environment where information could be shared across health, Police, central and local government and their partners.

“Certified PSN services were created to extend the safety net beyond the network alone and address many of the reasons why we see so many data breaches.

“What PSN should be is a common platform, built to assured standards, that is accessible to everyone with the appropriate rights, under clear and well-understood information governance rules,” Gibson added.