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Australia Goes After Encryption


Australia has debated laws planned to force technology companies to allow police and security agencies access to encrypted messages. The government said the imposed law is to help fight crime and terrorism in the country. Detractors project a list of wide-ranging concerns as the laws could destabilize the total security and confidentiality of users. The rules were delivered through parliament on its last day of the year.

The opposition mentioned it had unenthusiastically supported the laws to safeguard Australians during the holiday season, however on Friday it said that legitimate alarms about them remained. At present, experts of cyber-security have provided precautionary that the laws could build a “worldwide weak area” for companies like Apple and Facebook.

There are laws in Australia that necessitate providers to release a suspect’s communication to crime squads. Service providers utilize a form of encryption that enables them to see a user’s personal information and communications. On the other side, services such as WhatsApp, Signal, and others have implemented an added layer of protection such as end-to-end encryption wherein it only permits the sender and recipient to have access on the message. It inhibits the service provider to decipher it.

Dangerous Encryption

According to the FBI, device encryption poses a severe issue to security. Numerous counties including Australia have cited that criminals and terrorists spread hateful rhetoric through encrypted technology to inhibit surveillance.

There are countries such as Turkey, Russia, and China that ban services offering end-to-end encryption. With Australia’s lawmaking, a crime squad can force companies to build a technical function that would allow them to access encrypted messages without users’ consent.

As per Christian Porter, Attorney-General, the movement would make sure that the law enforcement agencies and the national security will have the needed state-of-the-art tools and there would be proper authority to deal with encrypted dialogues.

Cyber-security specialists have cited that it’s not probable to have a “back door” decryption that would securely pinpoint just one individual. University of Melbourne’s Dr. Chris Culnane emphasized that the vulnerability would only deteriorate the current encryption system, impacting security for guiltless individuals.

Impact of the Law

The opposition originally projected 173 alterations to the bill but said yes to drop them on Thursday to pass the law this year. Digital rights supporters criticize Australia’s move as the law has insufficient checks and balances. It was cited that if companies don’t follow the law, mandatory penalty would be applied and this leads to an assumption that some global companies that are not in favor of the move could draw back from the Australian commerce.

Australia law has clearly explained that the law offers protection and decryption will not push through if they lead to “systemic weakness.”  Critics are worried that the term is ambiguous and it’s uncertain how it may be performed. Dr. Culnane has shared that most firms would possibly be willing to follow but not entirely as users may not be conscious that their messages have been accessed.