Australia joins the 'decrypt it or we'll legislate' club

At least it only wants to break crypto after getting a warrant

Australia's home affairs minister Peter Dutton has waded into the global crypto debate, uttering the familiar demand that the tech sector provide what the politicians want while adding that the government will protect Australians from cyber-threats.

Dutton on Wednesday told Australia's National Press Club today that “ubiquitous encryption, a vital tool to all of us for secure personal banking and other communications including messaging, has become a significant obstacle to terrorism investigations.”

Because “decryption takes time” (if a platform is using a modern algorithm, you might get a plaintext while the universe is still warm), the industry needs to make message recovery as trivial as a phone tap.

“Law enforcement access to encrypted communications should be on the same basis as telephone and other intercepts in which companies provide vital and willing assistance in response to court orders.“, Dutton said.

So the Australian government doesn't want the impossible to be routine, instead asking for it only if a warrant can be produced. And the government will pass laws to ensure that the magical comes true:

“The Government is willing to work closely with these firms but will also introduce legislation to ensure that companies providing communications, services and devices in Australia have an obligation to assist agencies with decryption and, as a society, we should hold these companies responsible when their service is used to plan or facilitate unlawful activity”

If this sounds familiar, it's because others among the “Five Eyes” group of intelligence-sharing nations (USA, UK, NZ and Canada) seem to have obtained the same song sheet. At the end of January, UK Prime Minister Theresa May made a very similar call; and magic reversible-by-cops-encryption has been on the US agenda so long, a bunch of experts last week demanded the FBI reveal who's been telling it the magic is possible.

Crypto-gurus: Which idiots told the FBI that Feds-only backdoors in encryption are possible?


In what can only be called a cruel irony, Dutton returned to IT topics later in his speech, promising that his department will help keep Australians safe from cyber threats, because “criminals are mounting sophisticated and discreet attacks, employing ransomware, credential harvesting and social engineering” against us.

“The public's access to and dependence upon cyber space has become almost akin to its access to other services such as the supply of water and, like the public expectation of water supply, they will soon expect their access to the online world to be clean and free from bugs and threats, in particular in relation to the online safety of their children”.

Busting crypto will help, we're sure. ®

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