Friday, 14 July 2017

On 00:34 by admin   No comments
The Australian government is preparing to introduce legislation that would attempt to force tech companies to crack encrypted messages sent by suspected terrorists, traffickers and child sex offenders.
Proposed at a press conference Friday by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (pictured, right, with President Donald Trump), a man who made his millions through his ownership of what was once Australia’s largest Internet service provider, the legislation would mean companies such as Facebook Inc. would be compelled to assist Australian security agencies in decrypting messages sent through apps such as WhatsApp.
“Encryption is vital for information security, but the privacy of a terrorist must never trump the personal security of Australians,” Turnbull told News Corp., before adding that “We cannot allow the Internet to be an ungoverned space.”
In support of its proposal, the government said that online encryption has hindered more than 90 percent of high-priority inquiries by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and that 60 federal police operations involving terror and organized crime were hindered by encryption in June alone.
Turnbull claims that the government is not interested in access to “backdoors or anything underhand.” But how exactly tech companies are supposed to comply with the proposed laws is also a complete mystery, given that encrypted data by its very nature is designed not to be decrypted and is not even stored by the same companies to begin with.
The Facebook-owned WhatsApp messaging service, which turned on end-to-end encryption as standard in April 2016, is a good case in point. “The idea is simple: when you send a message, the only person who can read it is the person or group chat that you send that message to,” WhatsApp said at the time. “No one can see inside that message. Not cybercriminals. Not hackers. Not oppressive regimes. Not even us. End-to-end encryption helps make communication via WhatsApp private – sort of like a face-to-face conversation.”
Signal, the encrypted messaging app from Open Whisper Systems is yet another example. The company told ITWire, “We’ve designed the Signal service to minimize the data we retain about Signal users, so the only information we can produce in response to a request like this (from law enforcement) is the date and time a user registered with Signal and the last date of a user’s connectivity to the Signal service.”
The $99 million question is how the Australian government, let alone any other government, can force a company such as Facebook or Google to provide details from encrypted messages when they neither retain access to those message nor have a key to open them.
Once governments such as Australia finally realize the technical impossibility of what they ask, it’s a good bet they will eventually pursue backdoor access. In June, the Australian government pushed fellow members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing group, which also include the U.K., the U.S., Canada and New Zealand, to focus on how to force tech companies to introduce backdoors into their encrypted products.


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