back to article Home Office 'technologically clueless' on web super-snoop law

Computer experts, politicos, civil liberty campaigners and even a retired top cop universally agreed yesterday that the Home Office's real-time mass internet surveillance plan demonstrated just how "clueless" Theresa May's govt department is on implementing such a system. Speaking at the Scrambling for Safety event at the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Typical, even the name is slightly sinister. CCDP or should that be CCCP?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Communications Capabilities Coding Programme

      1. Evan Essence
        Black Helicopters

        Сою́з Сове́тских Социалисти́ческих Респу́блик (USSR)

        1. AdamWill


          You got the joke. Here, have a cookie.

  2. Jeff 11
    Thumb Up

    He warned "there will be terrorist acts" but pointed out that such a fact needed to be balanced with living in a free society.

    I think if there's one argument that supercedes every other (completely valid) point raised by critics on this travesty, it's this.

    1. JetSetJim
      Big Brother

      But will the MPs listen to the arguments?

      Or will they merely push it through and then become non-exec advisory directors of the contracted companies when they get thrown out of office?

      1. frank ly

        Re: But will the MPs listen to the arguments?

        I suspect that the Home Secretary was getting technical 'advice' from potential contracting companies. It's the only explanation I can think of.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: But will the MPs listen to the arguments?

        Based on factual evidence it looks like they will.

        Out of the MPs present at the discussion both will not vote for it in its current form.

        I do not see anything wrong with Julian Hupert's position that any access should be covered by judicial oversight (in UK that is magistrate do we like it or not). This is a big enough spanner in the works of the idea of "realtime surveilance of anyone and anything and mining" and it is nicely innocuous and cannot be easily thrown out. In order to throw it out you have to show that judicial oversight is a bad idea :)

        Similarly, if intercept data cannot be used in court now (which should not be the case as RIPA was supposed to fix that) having a draft bill which can be edited in the commons so it can put some order into this and ensure that it complies with _STANDARDS_ _OF_ _EVIDENCE_ is not such a bad idea.

    2. Rob 5


      We already have a metric for tolerable casualties - deaths on the roads.

      If it's not likely to kill more folks than die in traffic incidents each year...

      1. JimmyPage Silver badge

        Common sense and government policy

        have never been comfortable bedfellows. Alcohol kills 30,000 a year, tobacco >100,000. Cannabis 0.

        Now, place those substances in order of penalties for possession and distribution.

        You see ?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Common sense and government policy

          Shurely cannabis ~ 100 or 10 p/a would be plausible, but 0???

          1. JimmyPage Silver badge

            given cannabis is non-toxic

            what would you die of ? Boredom ?

            1. Grumble

              Re: given cannabis is non-toxic

              Cannabis is reputedly more more carcinogenic than tobacco.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                BZZZT - DAT DER

                I think the OP meant "poisonous". Alcohol is, and so is nicotine (you can kill someone with a single cigarette). Try and kill someone with cannabis, and see what happens.

                And I wouldn't use a word like "reputedly" if you are dealing in facts. The plural of anecdote is not data.

                1. Vic

                  Re: BZZZT - DAT DER

                  > Try and kill someone with cannabis, and see what happens.

                  The lethal dose of cannabis is roughly 10Kg.

                  Dropped from a third-story window...


            2. AdamWill

              Re: given cannabis is non-toxic

              Lung cancer. Yes, it causes that. It's _smoke_, for god's sake. And don't give me that 'but it's NATCHURAL, dude' crap. So's tobacco.

              I don't want to stop anyone smoking it, for God's sake. But the whole 'cannabis never killed anyone' thing is ludicrous.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: given cannabis is non-toxic

              It doesn't have to be toxic to be dangerous. Neither paranoia, excessive chilled-outness nor an insatiable craving to eat are something you want in drivers. Rather similar to having people driving while on the phone. Those are just the mild effects.

              Call me a pessimist, but I suspect that if you scaled up cannabis consumption to alcohol levels, I suspect we'd find further ill-effects.

              While alcohol causes liver damage etc, there is also substantial non-lethal damage caused due to impaired judgement and the removal of useful inhibitions.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Common sense and government policy

          Completely flawed article. If I drank as much liquid weed, as I did alcohol I'd be stone dead.

          If I smoked 20 joints a day, I'd be a bipolar schizophrenic, no doubt about it.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Common sense and government policy

            > If I smoked 20 joints a day, I'd be a bipolar schizophrenic, no doubt about it.

            My invisible friend totally agrees with you ... :)

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Andyf

    "Government department is technologically clueless" shocker.

    Hasn't that been the case since someone discovered fire?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      If technically clueless government departments (name one that isn't) had been around since the discovery of fire it would have been banned on health and safety grounds.

      So they must have arrived soon after.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Internet Dynamics.

    "Ross Anderson, a respected..... professor at the University of Cambridge.... He predicted that the likes of Facebook and Google would agree to DPI black boxes being added to their networks, although others would demand a warrant or simply say "no"."

    Sorry but that's wishful thinking Mr respected professor. If web users know of this. We simply stop using Facebook and Google. End of Story. The dynamics of the internet is as such, and even respected professors in security apparently doesn't quite understand.

    The more government pushes for internet control, the more it'll drive users to 'safer havens' and soon the development of networks that is fully encrypted without government control will appear.

    The saying "becareful of what you wish for" really goes into place here. Does the government really want it so that we develop technology that will seriously hamper government snooping efforts which, after one event leading to another, ultimately either mean the government can not feasiblity snoop anymore and the only choice they have is to 'disable' the internet, and thus destroy the 'internet' economy?

    Or do they want to leave it as it is because the technology is full of holesat this moment in time that allows you to secretly snoop when there is a REAL need for it such as tracking murders and terrorists?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Internet Dynamics.

      It's a nice idea.

      But the reality is a lot of the sheeple (and that is not an unfair description of them) will not shift and not think.

      They already think nothing of exposing huge amounts of their personal lives online yet *very* few of them would think of themselves as an exhibitionist.

      the notion they *would* mind giving up their privacy to a government when they gave up *so* much of it to Google and FB suggests none of them read the T&C's

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Internet Dynamics.

      Google and Facebook would be happy to allow DPI hardware, because they can just make their sites available over https instead. (Perhaps they already do.)

      Then, once people notice they've done that, and start asking why, and start getting answers, they'll expect every other website they deal with to take the same approach. Within a year or so, http will be regarded as a protocol for amateurs, not serious businesses.

  6. Graham Marsden
    Big Brother

    But it's Paedos and Criminals and Terrorists,oh my!

    How can anyone argue with that...?!

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simple matter of education.

    Set up the biggest water cannon you can find and then give Ms. May a small glass. Ask her to fill the glass from the water cannon.

    This simple (and highly amusing) demonstration would neatly illustrate one of the bigger problems in a way even MPs can understand.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Like the analogy.

      In fact, I insist on a demonstration, with Ms. May holding the glass.

      Anybody willing to scare up a glass, a fire engine and drum up a flash mob to blog the event of ambushing her for an impromptu show and spectacle?

    2. JetSetJim
      Thumb Up

      Re: Simple matter of education.

      Surely the analogy would be that she needs to drink all of what comes out of the water cannon?

      Either way, I'd like to see her try

    3. John70

      Re: Simple matter of education.

      You sir, have a pint.

      That is a very good example.

    4. DF118

      Re: Simple matter of education.

      Yep. I'd go even further and add 60m different colours of dye to the tank and tell her to catch only the blue water.

      1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

        Re: Simple matter of education.

        Don't forget to add the tear gas to the mix. The test should be as close to reality as possible.

  8. Miek
    Thumb Down

    "He explained that the Home Office was interested in "pre-emption" to "get to the bomber" before an atrocity occurred" -- Didn't work out that well for Charles De Menezes!

  9. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Never, so long as pussy remains a cat.

    "A retired Special Branch officer sitting in the audience also chimed in to attack May's CCDP bill. He explained that the Home Office was interested in "pre-emption" to "get to the bomber" before an atrocity occurred."

    Good luck with that, chiming retired Special Branch officer. Methinks pigs will have grown wings and flown before that is a practical reality.

    Doesn't the system realise that discontent is caused by its failure to provide all that is needed by society to function as a constructive creative unit. Flash the cash around to those who are into providing just that selflessly and the situation will change dramatically and fundamentally.

    It aint difficult, it is not as if it is nuclear rocket science or anything like that, it just needs some will and common sense to be shown and exercised.

    The intelligence services are being made to look like incompetent fools, a AAA double whammy of ridicule, because they are not supplying what is needed to fix what is wrong and being reported every day in the news media as current and ongoing states of chaotic affairs. Peace and Order it certainly aint.

  10. JaitcH

    Why should anyone expect the Home Office not to be clueless ...

    when they are headed by one of the dumbest ministers and likely there only so Cameron can claim to be a equal opportunity man, except the equal opportunity is supposed to refer to gender not the employment of cretins.

    The Tories condemned, and dispatched, the National ID Card proposed by Labour, then they follow this up with Plod's Number Plate Photography System. Now this GCHQ proposal which is much more intrusive than an ID card.

    The USA has demonstrated that mass communications slurping doesn't work, so why should the UK waste more money on the scheme?

    1. Danny 14

      Re: Why should anyone expect the Home Office not to be clueless ...

      perhaps BAE are a bidding contractor?

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        Re: Why should anyone expect the Home Office not to be clueless ...

        BAE own Dettica.

        Guess what Dettica's major stock in trade is?

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All this and more for £2 billion

    The costs of this project is going to be £2 billion over the first 10 years.

    Funny that when they tried to do the NHS the costs started out at this level but got to £12 billion, before cancellation.

    Given that the UK generates about 6 billion e-mails a day, from about 200 ISPs, £2 billion sounds a bit light.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: All this and more for £2 billion


      That's the bit the *last* government was saying they would pay the ISP's to *store* this stuff on demand for them.

      The GCHQ end is (of course) a *very* secret number indeed.

      IIRC a figure was issued but hastily surpressed for the whole Government IMP scheme of something like £7Bn.

      But note this *is* a secret govt IT project to ensure the Defense of the Realm from paeodphiles, terrorists, paedophile terrorists and terrorist paedophiles (that would be the militant wing of the PIE).

      So in reality WTF knows how much it would cost.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Mildly hopeful

    I've been in contact with my MP who has given me some hope that the current plans will be dissipated or even actively killed. However, as it's obviously not the Home Secretary making these demands, we need to keep an eye open for how they'll demand similar powers over us. After all, this is just an exercise in power games, and has nothing to do with "security." It's as though the "security services" live in a different world. Also, given May's recent antics, it would not surprise me that killing the current proposals will be too much politically.

  13. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Ok, lets quit pussyfooting around and get right down to it. You know it makes sense

    Might I suggest that GCHQ and other sundry snooping operations ensure that they have all MPs' and their SpAds' communications intercepted and routed through intelligence analysts. That should curtail a great deal of shenanigans for it does appear to be a case of their ilk, past and present, being responsible for all that the system is trying to monitor and prevent causing untold damage.

    And what is holding up Chilcot's report on that which we know to be true?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Maybe they could just use tcpdump to record the whole lot to a series of large files and just peruse it on an ongoing basis.


  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Feel the fear

    I don't think the HO is that stupid. The Snoopotron doesn't have to be practical, or even work very well. It just has to be convincing enough that Hoi Polloi believe Lady Teresa can see into their souls, which for the FB/Titter generation *is* their Internet traffic. A black box with a blue flashing light on top and a Minister on Sky News to say "there it goes, each beep is another Threat To Society Neutralised!" Of course it won't catch the tech-savvy and the really dangerous people, but it can be used to cover up whatever the plods did actually use to catch those, and there will be a steady harvest of minor offenders to deter the majority, provide the tabloids with reinforcement by random reward psychology and help cut down the traffic to "interesting" bits of the web to more manageable proportions - Big Data but not Very Big Data. The inevitable nasty mistakes? Well what do you think the secret trial proposals are for?

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: Feel the fear, which when fear is manufactured, allows one serial fondlings in its follies.

      "I don't think the HO is that stupid........ AC Posted Friday 20th April 2012 16:40 GMT

      The mistake which is easily made, AC, is to imagine and accept that the HO is bright and can lead in a world/worlds in which the smarter being realises they lead with the free sharing of sensitive information and novel intelligence. Secrets hidden from general view and filed away in secure vaults and known to a select committee of a few are/is not where power and control lie and come from. Future globally shared content is that which trumps all and that which everything reacts to.

      And the quite perfect enough vehicles for that are Invisible and Anonymous Intangible Networks InterNetworking JOINT Applications. ..........Creative Virtual Currents Phorming and Carrying Colossal Clouds with Titanic Rain for Perfect Storms. ......... which when bottled and marketed for sale has the distinct fragrance and unmistakeable air of Enigma Station XSSXXXX Ware about IT.

  16. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    It really did not take the data fetishists long to come out of hibernation.

    May like Wacky Jacqui Smith is another Whitehall sock puppet.

    Watch the same clique of senior (and ex-senior) civil service Intelligence types "brief" her to get on her hind legs and generally sound convincing while spouting total garbage.

    I've decided against my usual frowny or BB choice. While I've normally nothing against *any* group of fetishists exercising their foibles with *consenting* partners this bunch want *all* of the UK to be their partners.

    As for "consent" their attitude seems to be "you know you want it (security), you need our discipline (IE cradle-to-grave surveillance) to have it."

  17. David Roberts
    Paris Hilton

    Two stage strategy?

    If they want to successfully monitor email then they need a two stage strategy.

    Firstly they remove the 90% of emails which are SPAM, thus winning the hearts and minds of all thinking beings.

    Then they have only the last 10% to peer at for bad people sending bad messages.

    Unless, of course, civilization is doomed to extinction by the lack of Cialis.

  18. Derek Kingscote

    Of Course They're Cluless

    First of all, apologies, this is a long post

    Of course they’re clueless. They are mostly arts graduates!

    How many technically savvy people are there in govt? There are a few in the Lords on a range of different subjects and for that reason in my view the Lords should remain. They don’t have to pander to the electorate to get voted in – do we need a system like America where they have one house dominated by the Republicans and the other by the Democrats so nothing gets done? [There is a potential issue of corruption : consider the number of muppets paid by the health care lobbyists so that the health bill went through. Anyroad that’s a different can of wurms.]

    To get back to my point, in 1994 I worked for BT, and they decided that they would have a single call logger to log all the internal BT telephone traffic. I warned them that they wouldn’t be able to do it because it there was too much data. After a lot of “yes it will”, “no it won’t” panto, they did try. Surprise, surprise there was too much data and they had to have two monster call loggers with a front-end processor before it sort-of worked. OK, OK, things have moved on a lot since 1994, but we were only talking about internal BT traffic.

    Consider national telephone traffic now, they will be wanting to see everybody’s bills on a daily slice arrangement, rather than waiting for 3 months like the rest of us. How much data will that generate for analysis? How many people are they employing to do this? The previous lot also wanted records of all calls, even the ones that weren’t answered. There’s only one way they’ll get that and that is logging all the inter exchange signalling data. That’s the CTITT SS#7, known in the UK as C7 signalling.

    Now this gives you everything you could ever want!, calling party number, called party number, time, date and the termination data i.e ringing, busy, number unobtainable, if the call was answered or not, and call duration etc.etc. but you would have to do that on every C7 link in the country and incoming and outgoing to the country.

    Just imagine the data volumes. You have to get the calling party name and address and the called party name and address for every one of those calls. The previous govt wanted all that in real time. Ha!

    Then you’ve got Mobile Phone traffic, mobile data and SMS traffic.

    Then all the Facebook and Twitter traffic.

    And all the me too social network sites etc.

    And all the YouTube traffic.

    And all the Instagram traffic.

    And all the website traffic.

    And all the ebay traffic.

    And all the spam traffic.

    And all the stuff we haven’t thought about yet traffic.

    Most of this is all pretty pointless, but if they want to sift it they can.

    But how do they know what they’re looking for?

    Oh, and if there are blokes doing this monitoring they’re bound to get sidetracked with all the porn that “nobody” looks at!

    In my last job I got way too much email to the extent that people complained that I didn’t respond to it. I did a little experiment, and I calculated that if I read everything that came into my mailbox, I would be reading a million words a year! [save your emails and document attachments into a single rolling Word document for a month and use the wordcount function, you’ll see!] I was never going to do that!

    So capture, log and analyse it all. Best of luck with that!

    After a day they’ll have too much data

    After a week they’ll have way too much data

    After a month no one will bother to even look at it!

    Save your money in letting a contract. Just give me the money and you can have this advice instead : don’t bother!

    1. Jacqui

      Re: Of Course They're Cluless

      "To get back to my point, in 1994 I worked for BT, and they decided that they would have a single call logger to log all the internal BT telephone traffic. I warned them that they wouldn’t be able to do it because it there was too much data. After a lot of “yes it will”, “no it won’t” panto, they did try. Surprise, surprise there was too much data and they had to have two monster call loggers with a front-end processor before it sort-of worked. OK, OK, things have moved on a lot since 1994, but we were only talking about internal BT traffic"

      My employer did a call logger and traffic analyser for BT for all business lines. It generates a four to seven page report detailing usage, patterns and automatically makes recommendations and was at the time the biggest outsourced print job in Europe :-)

      The exchange fed loggers which cached CDR data for selected lines which was pulled by our system.

      It initially ran of a couple of sparcstations and a (then meaty) sun server or two. The sparcstations were used for otehr projects but were reconfigured to join the "server pool" when thier "day job" was complete. The project came in underbudget and was runing before deadlines and is still runnng today almost ten years on.

      So, CDR logging and traffic analysis can be done on large(ish) scale if you know what you are doing but recording and analysing calls (voice and data) is a much bigger undertaking.

      Not bad for a staff of between four and seven :-)


    2. Dave Bell

      Re: Of Course They're Cluless

      It could kill some of the spam phone calls, like the foreign call centres which try to persuade me that they're some sort of "Windows Technical Centre". But how do I report the fraud attempt to anyone who will take a blind bit of notice?


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