Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Is Rupert Murdoch a fit and proper person to run a company? (Daily Telegraph)

The boss must take final responsibility for the culture of criminality at News International, says Peter Oborne.

2. Egypt a year on: This is not the Tahrir dream, but there's much to be won (Guardian)

The country is torn between an entrenched security state, politically savvy Islamists and anxious revolutionaries, writes Timothy Garton Ash.

3. This postgraduate brain drain needs plugging (Times) (£)

All the fuss about fees has obscured the bigger issue of unfunded research students, says Andrew Hamilton.

4. The regime calls it 'cleaning', but the dirty truth is plain to see (Independent)

The word being used by Syria is a chilling one, says Robert Fisk.

5. Why does this coalition wobble like a jelly at every whinge and wail from the left? (Daily Mail)

The Cameroons, moistly tolerant, are being comprehensively outmanoeuvred, writes Quentin Letts.

6. On capitalism we lefties are clueless - it's not just a rightwing caricature (Guardian)

Emma Harrison and her ilk are free to reap the benefits of our shame at being smart with money and investment, writes Zoe Williams.

7. London must scare insider traders (Financial Times)

The UK should reconsider use of phone-tap evidence, argues John Gapper.

8. You might expect it from North Korea. Not Britain (Daily Mail)

It is not in the public interest to allow clumsy cover-ups in the name of "national security", says David Davis. That is why secret courts must be rejected.

9. The prime minister needs to think long (Financial Times)

The governing habits of the coalition need to change, writes Gavin Kelly.

10. Please end this disgrace, Mr Pickles (Independent)

Instead of more confrontation it is time for a mediated settlement on Traveller sites, says Thomas Hammarberg.

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The problems with ending encryption to fight terrorism

Forcing tech firms to create a "backdoor" to access messages would be a gift to cyber-hackers.

The UK has endured its worst terrorist atrocity since 7 July 2005 and the threat level has been raised to "critical" for the first time in a decade. Though election campaigning has been suspended, the debate over potential new powers has already begun.

Today's Sun reports that the Conservatives will seek to force technology companies to hand over encrypted messages to the police and security services. The new Technical Capability Notices were proposed by Amber Rudd following the Westminster terrorist attack and a month-long consultation closed last week. A Tory minister told the Sun: "We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in. The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now. The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long."

Put that way, the plan sounds reasonable (orders would be approved by the home secretary and a senior judge). But there are irrefutable problems. Encryption means tech firms such as WhatsApp and Apple can't simply "hand over" suspect messages - they can't access them at all. The technology is designed precisely so that conversations are genuinely private (unless a suspect's device is obtained or hacked into). Were companies to create an encryption "backdoor", as the government proposes, they would also create new opportunities for criminals and cyberhackers (as in the case of the recent NHS attack).

Ian Levy, the technical director of the National Cyber Security, told the New Statesman's Will Dunn earlier this year: "Nobody in this organisation or our parent organisation will ever ask for a 'back door' in a large-scale encryption system, because it's dumb."

But there is a more profound problem: once created, a technology cannot be uninvented. Should large tech firms end encryption, terrorists will merely turn to other, lesser-known platforms. The only means of barring UK citizens from using the service would be a Chinese-style "great firewall", cutting Britain off from the rest of the internet. In 2015, before entering the cabinet, Brexit Secretary David Davis warned of ending encryption: "Such a move would have had devastating consequences for all financial transactions and online commerce, not to mention the security of all personal data. Its consequences for the City do not bear thinking about."

Labour's manifesto pledged to "provide our security agencies with the resources and the powers they need to protect our country and keep us all safe." But added: "We will also ensure that such powers do not weaken our individual rights or civil liberties". The Liberal Democrats have vowed to "oppose Conservative attempts to undermine encryption."

But with a large Conservative majority inevitable, according to polls, ministers will be confident of winning parliamentary support for the plan. Only a rebellion led by Davis-esque liberals is likely to stop them.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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