Government acts to stop safe space for criminal and terrorist communications

Security Minister Ben Wallace has given a direction to Ofcom to ensure that the Security and Intelligence Services, law enforcement and other Emergency Services have access to the information they need to keep the public safe. Made under Section 5 of the Communications Act 2003, the direction requires that commercial multi-user gateways may only be licensed where the supplier can demonstrate that callers can be identified.

Commercial multi-user gateways use SIM cards to allow calls made through them to be routed through different operators. Calls made using these devices from fixed lines to mobiles are treated by the recipient’s network as if they were made by a mobile phone rather than a fixed line.

The move comes after Ofcom announced in July that, following a public consultation period, it had concluded that it was required to exempt the devices from current licensing requirements under Section 8(1) of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006.

Ofcom set out that the legislation prevented the organisation from being able to take into account all-important national security concerns.

Under the Communications Act 2003, Government ministers can give a direction about communications networks on national security grounds. The Security Minister’s direction ensures any new regulations enabling the use of such devices will continue to protect national security. This means that law enforcement, the Security and Intelligence Services and the Emergency Services can maintain vital capabilities to investigate suspected terrorists and criminals.

Ben Wallace

Ben Wallace

Signing the direction to Ofcom, Ben Wallace said: “The first duty of Government is to protect the public. This direction is necessary to ensure that those charged with keeping families and communities safe have access to relevant and accurate information when they need it and when they have the appropriate authorisations in order to do their job.”

The Home Office set out concerns that the use of these devices could endanger life in its response to Ofcom’s consultation.

The direction doesn’t seek to ban the use of the technology, but ensures that, when operated, it will not affect the ability of the Security and Intelligence Services, law enforcement and other Emergency Services to investigate terrorism and serious crime, as well as to identify and locate those people at risk of harm.

About the Author
Brian Sims BA (Hons) Hon FSyI, Editor, Risk UK (Pro-Activ Publications) Beginning his career in professional journalism at The Builder Group in March 1992, Brian was appointed Editor of Security Management Today in November 2000 having spent eight years in engineering journalism across two titles: Building Services Journal and Light & Lighting. In 2005, Brian received the BSIA Chairman’s Award for Promoting The Security Industry and, a year later, the Skills for Security Special Award for an Outstanding Contribution to the Security Business Sector. In 2008, Brian was The Security Institute’s nomination for the Association of Security Consultants’ highly prestigious Imbert Prize and, in 2013, was a nominated finalist for the Institute's George van Schalkwyk Award. An Honorary Fellow of The Security Institute, Brian serves as a Judge for the BSIA’s Security Personnel of the Year Awards and the Securitas Good Customer Award. Between 2008 and 2014, Brian pioneered the use of digital media across the security sector, including webinars and Audio Shows. Brian’s actively involved in 50-plus security groups on LinkedIn and hosts the popular Risk UK Twitter site. Brian is a frequent speaker on the conference circuit. He has organised and chaired conference programmes for both IFSEC International and ASIS International and has been published in the national media. Brian was appointed Editor of Risk UK at Pro-Activ Publications in July 2014.

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