Australia Is On The Fast Path to Ban Encryption Without Backdoors

While this is still a bit like Jello (R) waiting to congeal, the Australian Assistance and Access Bill is designed to require back doors in encrypted communications like Whats App and iMessage.


The party in power is trying to ram the bill through Parliament in 4 days and the opposition labor party is playing politics – maybe supporting it maybe not.

Continuing the political bull-poop, the prime minister said that the Labor party is “happy” for terrorists to plot attacks using encrypted messages.  I don’t recall ever hearing the Labor party ever say anything remotely close to that.

They are saying that if the bill passes, the Australian software industry will be toast as anyone from another country will assume that any Australian software is riddled with security holes to keep the police happy.  Who would buy that software?

One proposal is to limit the back doors to terrorism and child trafficking, but i have no idea how, technically, you could possibly do that.

It is also possible that such a law would conflict with provisions of other foreign laws such as the U.S. Cloud Act and possibly even GDPR.

The bigger question is whether big software players like Apple and Facebook will buckle and build in back doors to protect a tiny bit of the world market to keep Australia happy.

One possibility is what we had in the U.S. in the 90s, which is two versions of software – one for the Australian market, full of security holes but legal in Australia, and one for the rest of the world.  The disadvantage of this is that vendors would need two sets of software and maybe some amount of separate infrastructure.  It is also not clear how you would stop Australians from downloading the other version.

Another possibility, although less likely, is that companies Apple and Facebook will abandon the Australia market.  After all, in the grand scheme of things, it is not a big part of their revenue.  For the moment, they are lobbying against it and other than that, keeping their collective mouths shut.

The Australian government is saying that they need to ram this legislation through Parliament because of the heightened risk during the Christmas holiday, although it is completely inconceivable that even if the bill passes that companies would do anything in time for Christmas.

The government is trying to scare people into passing the bill without any review by saying if they don’t that lives are in jeopardy, but when asked if there is a specific problem they answer no.  After all, they have not had this capability for the last 10 years, why will waiting 30 days mean the end of life on the planet?

The proposed law would require companies to add back doors unless adding back doors would create systemic weaknesses – whatever that means.

Information for this post came from ZDNet and Sky News.

Of course, since politicians are not, for the most part, technically savvy, they appear to have missed the issue of open source software, which we have seen grow in popularity among terrorists in the Middle East.  With open source there is no company to haul into court and it is likely impossible to stop the distribution of open source source located outside of a country’s borders.

Stay tuned.




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