News Article

Director Robert Hannigan dispels myths about encryption in MIT speech

Last Updated: 07 Mar 2016
In a speech entitled "Front doors and strong locks: encryption, privacy and intelligence-gathering in the digital era" Director GCHQ shares his thoughts about this pivotal topic with an influential audience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

News article - 07 Mar 2016

Robert Hannigan spoke at MIT on 7 March about encryption, privacy and intelligence-gathering. In his speech he highlighted GCHQ's support for the development of strong encryption, explored its moral dimension, and explained GCHQ's support for the development of a constructive understanding among all who have a stake in the Internet.

To illustrate GCHQ's role in the development of strong encryption,GCHQ are making available two papers published internally in 1970 by James Ellis on non-secure digital and analogue encryption. The digital paper is a key document in the development of public key cryptography; the analogue paper highlights thinking which was not really taken further at the time, but which is intriguing today.

Robert Hannigan made the point that public key cryptography and its development have completely transformed the way that people can interact securely: it is impossible to imagine today's Internet without it. He spoke with pride of James Ellis's contribution, but also paid tribute to work done by other great people inside and outside GCHQ, discussing the sheer boldness of the concept that reversed centuries of assumptions about how communications could be protected. He drew hope from this, and suggested that their achievement gives hope that current difficulties can be overcome, and that government agencies, the technological industry, and the users of the Internet all have a place in this discussion.


Director GCHQ Robert Hannigan speaking at MIT, 20160308
©Bryce Vickmark