Britain's security services are struggling to keep up with the ever-changing world of communications and cyber espionage, according to former MI5 director general Dame Stella Rimington.
Opening the 2017 InfoSecurity event at London's Olympia, Rimington reflected on experiences from her time at MI5 tackling the likes of the IRA, declaring the current challenges facing the security services more difficult as a result of technology advances.
Following a third terror attack on the UK, the government has been highly critical of large tech communication firms building end-to-end encryption into their products, a security feature which Remington singled out as making it harder for security services to obtain intelligence - referring to intercepting post as the height of communication interception during her time at MI5.
"The interception of communications and providing our [security] services with the legal base they need to continue to intercept communications as they change rapidly - and [as] encryption increases and increases - is one of the issues which is facing our current intelligent services, government ministers and those that give power to our intelligence services," she said.
"I think we're facing a very difficult world. We're facing a world of cyber espionage which nobody really knows effectively how to deal with [and] we're facing a world of very, very complex communications which make it very difficult for our intelligence services to keep pace. We're facing hideous ideologies with a determination now merely just to kill people."
Prime minister Theresa May irked the tech industry in the wake of Saturday's terror attack in London after singling out internet providers as among the culprits by allowing terrorists a "safe place", to communicate.
The likes of Facebook, Google and Microsoft hit back straightaway, defending the work they have done to keep terrorists off their platforms, while yesterday channel firms warned May not to be too hasty in overhauling current regulations around encryption and state access to IT systems.
Speaking today, Remington urged caution on the government's part, warning that "radical" changes would not be in anyone's best interest.
"People look for somebody to blame," she said. "You blame the terrorists first but then who do you blame next? You blame the police, you blame the security services, or you blame the politicians because they haven't provided adequate resources.
"I heard various politicians [saying] ‘we need radical change', and that is what they will all say, because once there is a crisis everyone says it, even though it's probably not what you need," she said. "What you need is some kind of gradual change."
"Change has been going on since the dawn of time, the dawn of my time anyway, in this field and it will go on. The key thing is it's got to be carefully managed. People should not rush. Because something has happened [saying] ‘blame you, blame you' is not the way to deal with security."
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