Privacy activists plan to undermine forthcoming UK Government regulations on the surrender of encryption keys through the release of an open-source cryptography project, called m-o-o-t.
The Home Office hopes to publish a much delayed draft Code of Practice for part three of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (RIP) Act, which deals with procedures for law enforcer to gain access to encryption keys or plain-text versions of scrambled messages, next month.
This was always the most controversial part of the Act, which the backers of m-o-o-t hope to defeat along with other similar government schemes throughout the world.
They state that their aim is "to defeat RIP Act Part 3 and make it look silly, and to allow UK citizens to communicate and to store information without worrying about it."
"We are doing this so people can be private elsewhere than in our heads. We object to the idea that people should not be allowed to seek privacy from governments," the group's mission statement says.
M-o-o-t seeks to defeat forthcoming RIP Act powers by storing encryption keys and data overseas, outside government jurisdiction and protected by steganographic techniques.
The group plans to ship M-o-o-t on CD. It is an alternative operating system that doesn't use local storage. That way, the group says, if your computer is seized by police, there will be nothing for them to find.
In an interview with New Scientist Peter Fairbrother, a mathematician and computer enthusiast working on the project, explained that "communication will only be possible with other M-o-o-t users using keys that expire after a single use. 'Master' encryption keys will be kept on the remote servers in a format that makes it impossible to distinguish them from random data without the correct password."
The Home Office have said that the project would provide criminals and terrorists with a means to avoid detection, but Fairbrother said there are already such tools and told that New Scientist "The benefits far outweigh the problems."
The group has posted its work-to-date online for peer review and discussion. ®
Encryption tears holes in RIP
RIPA Code of Practice goes out to public consultation
UK plc ignorant of RIP Act
RIP not a problem thanks to police stupidity
Email snooping row kicks off again
Email snooping code of practice delayed
RIP Bill - full coverage up to July 2000