Fox News is reporting on a plea made by security officials in the United Kingdom to the developers of WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, Inc. (Nasdaq: FB), to make messages sent by Westminster Bridge terror attack suspect Khalid Masood available for inspection. WhatsApp, and other messaging services using similar technology, such as Telegram, are known for their strong encryption, making it impossible for authorities, or even the development teams themselves, to access users' private messages.

Earlier this month, Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: CHKP) reported on a vulnerability in both WhatsApp and Telegram that allowed hackers to spread malware that resulted in groups gaining complete control of users' accounts.

It is said that the iron-clad encryption the services employ resulted in a situation where development teams were left blind to cyber attacks. The vulnerability has been fixed with a new process that validates messages as safe, before they are encrypted and sent across the WhatsApp service.

WhatsApp used by ISIS

The Islamic State is reported to be known to use WhatsApp when organizing attacks against international targets. ISIS has called the Westminster attacker a "soldier," and part of its plans to carry out attacks against the Western world. Neil Basu, the U.K. deputy assistant commissioner, stated that the motivations behind the attack may never be fully known, but that "we need to establish with absolute clarity why he did these unspeakable acts."

"We need to make sure that organizations like WhatsApp -- and there are plenty of others like that -- don't provide a secret place for terrorists to communicate with each other," U.K.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd was quoted by Fox News. The request by authorities in the United Kingdom has been compared to requests by U.S. officials with Apple, Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), to be allowed access to the iPhone thought to be used by the perpetrator of the December 2015 attack in San Bernardino, California. Apple is reported to have refused to provide authorities with the access sought, though access to the San Bernardino attacker's cell phone was eventually gained by engineers working with officials.

British authorities seek access to WhatsApp

Last Wednesday, Masood intentionally drove his car over pedestrians on London's Westminster Bridge, before crashing it into the gate of British Parliament, exiting the vehicle, and stabbing a police officer to death. The attacker was shot dead by another police officer. Two others, men, aged 58 and 27, were said to have been held in custody in connection with the attack.

Fox News reports that authorities believe that Masood "acted alone."

Ms. Rudd expressed the view that the Westminster attack might have been prevented if authorities had the ability to access encrypted messages on services like WhatsApp after being granted a warrant. The home secretary compared such access with authorities being given a warrant to listen in on telephone conversations. She stated that the terrorist had authored a "WhatsApp message and it can't be accessed."

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