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Home Office News Release, 30/03/2001, 096/2001

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Assistant Chief Constable Ian Humphreys will be the new Head of the National Technical Assistance Centre (NTAC) Home Secretary Jack Straw confirmed today.

The National Technical Assistance Centre will help the Government respond to criminals, such as pornographers and paedophiles, who use encryption to conceal the contents of their computer files.

NTAC will give law enforcement agencies the ability to fight crime in the information age and provide a facility for the processing of lawfully intercepted communications and lawfully seized protected electronic data, which can then be used to bring serious criminals to justice.

NTAC will remain under the day to day control of the Home Office, and the new Head Ian Humphreys, who is on secondment to the Home Office from Kent County Constabulary, will be accountable to the Home Secretary.

Home Secretary Jack Straw said: "The Government is committed to action against hi-tech crime in line with our objective of making the UK the best and safest place in the world to conduct and engage in e-commerce.

"The National Technical Assistance Centre will give law enforcement the capability to derive intelligence and evidence from new information and communication technologies.

"It will provide techniques for lawful interception of modern multimedia communications and improve facilities for deriving evidence from lawfully seized computer data.

"NTAC will make the difference between serious crimes such as paedophilia, extortion and fraud being prevented or punished and criminals going unpunished and free to continue their activities."

Head of the National Technical Assistance Centre Ian Humphreys said: "NTAC represents a major new initiative in the fight against criminals engaged in serious and organised crime, such as paedophiles, drug traffickers and fraudsters. We will provide specialist technical support to the law enforcement effort to counter the evil intent of those determined to exploit technology to the detriment of decent members of society."

NTAC will be a twenty-four hour centre operated on behalf of all the law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies, to provide a central facility for the complex processing of encrypted material derived from lawfully intercepted computer communications.

It will make technically possible the provisions included in Part III of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 requiring the disclosure of keys to lawfully obtained protected electronic data. These powers are expected to come in to force in late 2001.

The Chancellor announced in the budget in April last year that 25 million of capital modernisation funding had been made available to the Home Office over two years for the capital costs of developing a National Technical Assistance Centre.

This followed the Cabinet Office Performance Innovation Unit's report "Encryption and Law Enforcement", published in May 1999, which recommended the establishment of a Technical Assistance Centre to assist law enforcement agencies to gain access to communications protected by encryption.


1. NTAC will be part of the Home Office and not a statutory body. The Home Secretary will be accountable to Parliament for NTAC. The work of NTAC will be subject to statutory oversight by the Interception of Communications Commissioner, the Intelligence Services Commissioner and the Surveillance Commissioners. It will also be subject to the scrutiny of the courts in respect of its handling of lawfully seized material and material lawfully acquired through the exercise of statutory powers.

2. Interception of communications is carefully regulated, by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, and can only be conducted under a warrant signed the Secretary of State.

3. NTAC will undertake any processing necessary to make intercepted material intelligible. NTAC will not analyse the intelligible content of any intercepted material. That will remain a function for the agency which applied for the interception warrant.

4. In November last year the Government announced 25 million to fund the National Hi-Tech Crime Strategy and Unit (Home Office press release 359/2000 refers).

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