back to article UK Home Office re-bans cheap call gateways because 'terrorism'

Security minister Ben Wallace has signed a direction banning commercial multi-user phone gateways in the UK over terrorism fears – barely a week after the only ever prosecution for operating one flopped following years of Kafkaesque wrangling. The direction to Ofcom (PDF, 1 page), made under section 5(3)(a) of the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Next!

    VPN's, especially those that do not keep logs. Logging you to your VPN's gateway and nothing else is unacceptable. God forbid that your ISP can not keep a record of each and every site that you visit. 'Cause terrorism.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Gimp

      Data fetishism is not actually a rational policy. It's a disease of the mind.

      And one day its sufferers will be diagnosed and treated as such.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Data fetishism is not actually a rational policy. It's a disease of the mind.

        wir mussen alles wissen

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Data fetishism is not actually a rational policy. It's a disease of the mind.

          In "A Very British Coup" Tim McInnerny played a MI5 data-obsessive, monitoring everything. When his boss remarks "One day, Mr Fiennes, you will have the entire population under permanent 24 hour surveillance. Will you be happy then?" McInnerry replies warily "Happy? ... Satisfied..."

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Next!

      patience, my friend, all, in due course. BU - rest assured, our fully dedicated and well-enumerated team are working on it, as we speak :/

    4. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Next!

      Normally at this point someone would mention that a lot of people use VPNs as part of their job, and that if you work for a multinational company it's pretty much de rigueur.

      However, the current government seems to be doing it's best to make sure that no other countries want to do business in blighty, so that's not a problem any more.

      Maybe that's been May's plan all along?

  2. James 51
    Childcatcher

    "This direction is necessary to ensure that those charged with keeping families and communities safe have access to relevant and accurate information when they need it and when they have the appropriate authorisations in order to do their job."

    So people who are single and live in the middle of nowhere are on their own then?

    1. Spudley

      So people who are single and live in the middle of nowhere are on their own then?

      Yes. Yes, they are. All on their own with no-one to talk to.

      1. James 51

        @Spud Certainly not using COMUGs anyway.

      2. fedoraman
        Happy

        Despair

        If you find yourself struggling with loneliness, you are not alone. And yet you are alone.

        So very alone.

        credit: https://despair.com/products/loneliness

    2. DaLo

      "So people who are single and live in the middle of nowhere are on their own then?"

      Yes, by definition.

    3. Wensleydale Cheese

      "So people who are single and live in the middle of nowhere are on their own then?"

      That started with Gordon Brown's "Hard working families".

      The inference is that singles or childless couple are obviously a bunch of shirkers :-(

    4. Teiwaz

      "This direction is necessary to ensure that those charged with keeping families and communities safe have access to relevant and accurate information when they need it and when they have the appropriate authorisations in order to do their job."

      So people who are single and live in the middle of nowhere are on their own then?

      Correction, such people are the classic 'lone wolf' types are probably a danger anyway.

      1. James 51

        @Teiwaz They are also called farmers.

    5. nijam Silver badge

      > So people who are single and live in the middle of nowhere are on their own then?

      No, they're terrorists. Probably a whole gang of terrorists, actually, or even a rogue state.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh dear

    "keeping families and communities safe..."

    I worry whenever I see a line like that when the govt is talking about this sort of thing. It implies that without whatever surveillance / snooping / loss of rights / loss of freedom they are proposing, families and communities are not safe. Argumentum ad metum, scare the plebs, get away with anything.

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Oh dear

      It's probably an illegal ban, but UK is leaving every institution*, so they can.

      (* They can leave UN and International courts a lot more easily than the EU)

    2. Jason Hindle

      Re: Oh dear

      Well if “families” doesn’t do the trick, they can always roll out “hard working families”.

      1. Joe Werner Silver badge

        Re: Oh dear

        Hard working families - so child labour will officially be back in a few years? ;)

    3. organiser

      Re: Oh dear

      Same also with the line "proper authorisations". We will need to apply (for a fee of course) for permission in order to be authorised (for a fee of course) to do anything for a limited amount of time. Authorisation revoked or not renewed, and you are out of a job, house and probably bank account too.

      1. Wensleydale Cheese

        Re: Oh dear

        "Authorisation revoked or not renewed, and you are out of a job, house and probably bank account too."

        deportation threatened, child benefit stopped, driving licence revoked

        A Japanese woman living in London with her Polish husband has been threatened with deportation, had her child benefit stopped and driving licence revoked even though she is lawfully in the country under EU law, it has emerged.

        You probably won't realise unless you have been through the process, but there's an international agreement about driving licences across civilised countries.

        If you become resident in a new country for a long enough period, your existing driving licence can be surrendered in exchange for a local one, and you can do the same again if you go to any other country that has a reciprocal agreement.

        The UK could be on extremely dodgy human rights grounds if that revocation results in a licence which is worthless worldwide.

  4. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Just a quick correction . . .

    "This direction is necessary to ensure that those charged with keeping families and communities safe have the NSA has access to relevant and accurate information when they need it it wants it"

    There, FTFY.

  5. Lysenko

    those charged with keeping families and communities safe...

    I was just discussing second class citizenship on another thread. I forgot about the UK Government predilection for relegating anyone who fails to marry and breed to irrelevance. "People" is the natural word to use so choosing "families" ("Hard working", naturally) instead has to have an intentional subtext - presumably that HMG won't be that bothered if terrorists undertake some Aktion T4 on unemployed singles.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: those charged with keeping families and communities safe...

      Odd really, because the Home Office has been instrumental in fomenting Skype families.

  6. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Yay for policy-based evidence making...

    ... because terrorism.

    1. Lysenko

      Re: Yay for policy-based evidence making...

      ... and if the terrorists inconveniently find something else to do with their lives, PAEDOGEDDON!!! can always be dusted off to keep the bandwagon going. A VPN Sir? That stands for Virtual Paedophile Network I believe.

  7. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Don't forget

    "Think of the children"

    1. dnicholas

      Re: Don't forget

      That's what got Rolf Harris in deep water

      1. chr0m4t1c

        Re: Don't forget

        Yeah, but somehow he managed to make his way to the bank and scramble out. Scared the life out of his parents so they taught him to swim pretty soon afterwards.

        #OldAdvertsNewMedia

  8. Simon Rockman

    End of MTR

    Something which has done a lot to promote anonymity is the end of call termination revenue.

    If (as I do) you have a mobile phone network there was a time when you got paid for handling calls. So if a customer on Vodafone called a customer on my network, the customer would pay Vodafone who would then share the money with me. I got paid for the bit of the routing which was mine.

    This had many downsides. Not least an old-boys club on who got paid what and Ofcom stepped in and now transiting calls is all done for mutual benefit and under various obligations but no cash.

    Taking the money out of the equation also removes the need to know who's calling. If I get a call I just deliver it. If I was being paid to deliver it and I found someone regularly not paying me I could sanction them by blocking calls they sent me. But there is no point running credit control when all callers are freetards.

    Where this hurts is in tracking nuisance calls. A major way to spot spammers and scammers is to compare the SS7 billing info with the presented CLI and if they are lying, and if in particular you see huge volumes of bulk calls from the same place with clumps of different CLIs then you get suspicious.

    In the modern VoIP world there isn't all the signalling info you need to do this. You need to employ other techniques to block the nuisance calls. Ironically the way we do this involves having to spoof CLI.

    I'm not saying we should return to call termination revenue. but having lost it has removed the need to be certain who is calling.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think it's really amazing that our government is so caring and considerate that it tries to protect me by wanting to know everyone I have contact with, when I contact them and for how long. It's also great that they want to track my car everywhere I go by it's number plate and track me by facial recognition. I'm sure they are doing it for my benefit and this will ultimately stop all terrorist from randomly blowing themselves said no one ever.

    What makes this particular action even more contemptible is the way it's been slipped through the back door.

    If this was about "terrorism" someone would have told them that the people that wish to blow themselves up will now avoid any of the things they are now using to try and find them.

    1. Andy Mac
      Joke

      If terrorists were randomly blowing themselves more often, maybe they wouldn’t be so angry.

    2. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      I think it's really amazing that our government is so caring and considerate that it tries to protect me by wanting to know everyone I have contact with, when I contact them and for how long

      .. whereas us asking for the same transparency from our government (where it is actually warranted until they stop pretending it's a democracy) is deemed almost subversive..

  10. TiddlyPom
    Facepalm

    VOIP over VPN?

    It is not difficult to set up (say) a Linux Virtual Machine running the Asterisk Open Source SIP (Voice of Internet) Exchange + VPN server (e.g. OpenVPN) and then set up open source SIP clients (say Linphone) over VPN clients on two phones and use these. Make sure you have a fixed IP address and use that rather than any DNS look-ups. Oh and use (say) HTTPS ports instead of standard VPN ports. There are other high encryption (such as Tox). Technical users can inspect the source code and make sure that there are no government hooks for monitoring.

    How are you going to monitor that? D'Oh!

    1. Red Bren
      Black Helicopters

      Re: VOIP over VPN?

      Excuse me Sir, but you appear to be publishing information useful to terrorists. Please come quietly, we wouldn't want you to fall over. Repeatedly...

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: VOIP over VPN?

      "How are you going to monitor that?"

      Well that's rather the point. They can't monitor these COMUG thingies either, but they've banned them so now they don't need to solve that problem.

      Just because it is easy to break the law doesn't mean the law is futile. Quite the reverse, in fact. The law becomes the preferred mechanism for enforcement when technical means break down. (Of course, there is also the option of "not trying to enforce" state-sponsored voyeurism, but that option doesn't appear to have occurred to them.)

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. heyrick Silver badge

          Re: VOIP over VPN?

          "all this banning and stopping people from having privacy, will not have an effect on the bad people,

          Haven't you realised? This isn't about terrorists. The government is afraid of YOU. "Terror" is just the excuse they give for granting themselves more intrusion into your life, because...

      2. TiddlyPom
        Big Brother

        Re: VOIP over VPN?

        This is nothing to do with breaking the law. This is to do with the fact that I want to be able to have conversations with my friends and family and know that I am not being spied on or having my conversation recorded by government spooks. The right to privacy is an important part of a democratic state. The state should have to go through due process in order to gather information on me not just spy on everybody because they can. I do not accept the 'if you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear' brigade. Just look at levels of corruption within the Police and within Parliament. The right to silence (or privacy) is one of the few things that protect us from malign elements within the state which is why they (Police and Government) want to take that away.

        1. Red Bren

          Re: VOIP over VPN?

          "The right to privacy is an important part of a democratic state."

          How do you describe a state where the population, every 4 or 5 years, choose governments (regardless of political ideology) that openly demand to breach their subjects' right to privacy, in order to catch paedo-terrorists.

          This is the news we want you to hear, and we want to know if you hear anything else...

    3. PNGuinn
      Holmes

      Re: VOIP over VPN? @ TiddlyPom

      Linux? Open source? HTTPs? VPN?

      You are obviously a terrorist AND dangerous to children.

      I claim my £5 in bitcoin.

      Please report to no 10 downing street immediately, and join the orderly queue for reeducation.

      (Upvoted)

      1. Swiss Anton

        Re: VOIP over VPN?

        I guess I'm just going to have to hack into one of my neighbour's IOT slipper warmers* and then VPN from there to talk to my comrades using VIOP.

        By hack I mean log in as admin using the hard coded credentials that can be found using any search engine.

        (*There is nothing nicer than coming home to a nice warm pair of slippers.)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Missed opportunity

    Surely creating COMUGS run by 'front' companies for MI5 would have gathered useful information on a) Who is calling them and b) What they are saying (I assume a MITM decrypt is possible)

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's worse a terrist or a Govt cnut.

    "As there are no COMUG operators in the UK today" Yeah, right, not been in too may datacenters then? They are so cheap you can have them spread out in many locations too, like your local corner shop.

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Big Brother

    HMG "hardly littered with shining examples of openness and responsiveness."

    We have hears citizens express such sentiments

    And with our newly legalized powers we know exactly who they are, and will be applying appropriate measures when the time is right.

    <signed>

    Big Brother.

  14. JaitcH
    Happy

    All you need is . . .

    to load up Telegram (www.Telegram.com) and you can chat away for free, send messages whilst knowing your comms are completely secure from GCHQ and the NSA.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: All you need is . . .

      Telegram's encryption is scientifically proven to be bollocks.

      1. Oh Homer
        Holmes

        Re: All you need is . . .

        There's an onion (router) site (which I've forgotten), sort of a better version of Prism Break, which lists a lot of privacy tools then carefully scrutinises them to determine exactly how private they are. The consensus seems to be that Retroshare pretty much covers everything quite well.

      2. 's water music

        Re: All you need is . . .

        Telegram's encryption is scientifically proven to be bollocks.

        I don't know, they had pretty convincingly disguised that site to look like the Worcester County Telegram & Gazette

    2. Lysenko

      Re: All you need is . . .

      I believe you are thinking of Signal or Wire.

      Telegram isn't secure and it isn't supposed to be since the "secret chat" feature is not the default and depends on an unproven algorithm. You use Telegram (or not) because you happen to like its other features, like easy to customise bots.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Data Retirement Home

    Am looking to raise venture capital for a start up where we store all of this data that noone is ever going to look at again, ever..

    On a side note we also have plans for a virtual quantum data store where we store your bits (and bobs if you are so inclined) in a quantum state that we like to call Schrödingers rack.. fnaar, or not.

  16. JustSomeBloke

    Contention woes.

    Putting aside the alleged terrorism angle, I worked overseas in a country where these were plentiful for a while.

    The companies set the gateways up with a big bank of SIM cards that quickly ate most of the capacity of the local tower.

    Then ensued a cat and mouse game of moving them around and swapping SIMs as the mobile operator tried to stop the gateway companies who were apparently ‘stealing’ their revenue.

    All I can say Is that when the gateway was switched on my already limited mobile data was utterly hopeless.

    Can’t see any business case to run the things now.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    that those charged with keeping families and communities safe

    can spy on them

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Red Herring alert!

    Don't believe this rubbish as mobiles don't call COMUGS and all CLI information has to be captured to have access to the GSM Gateway. All mobile network Call Detail Records (CDRs) recorded the calling CLI from the SIM.

    Are all other VoIP and end top end encrypted voice and text services being banned too for the same security reason? It doesn't seem so. Why not?

    If the Home Office has now issued this Section 5 notice at the behest of Ofcom, what date did COMUGS become illegal?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Home Office dirty tricks

    Having been caught out in the past as was reported by The Register, one would believe that the Home Office would want to ensure their position is watertight on this subject.

    If so why did the Home Office not issue the Section 5 notice before now and press ahead with the case against Mr Mahony?

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Utter nonsense

    Who does Wallace think he's kidding? What terrorist would use an unencrypted landline to call another terrorist and chat about who, how and when they'll attack? Does he really think we're that stupid?

    All terrorist incidents involve mobile - mobile communication, most of it over encrypted messaging services. The Westminster Bridge attacker was on WhatsApp 3 minutes before he drove across the bridge. He wasn't at his mum's house using her landline to correspond with his co-consiprators.

    Mobile - mobile communications do not use GSM gateways. It is uneconomical to do so, and do you really think a mobile network will connect their services through a GSM gateway company or through a direct interconnect with another mobile network? Of course not. They all have a well-documented hatred of GSM gateways.

    Wallace should be concentrating on regulating encrypted services rather than a 30-year old technology that isn't used in the way he suggests. Unless, of course, the all-powerful mobile networks are influencing Ofcom and the Home Office behind the scenes to protect their commercial interests. But that could never happen here, could it...?

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