Big Brother law brouhaha

Smart home-speak­ers could be used to spy on you

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS - MI­RANDA DEVINE

NEW cy­ber se­cu­rity laws be­fore Fed­eral Par­lia­ment could al­low the Gov­ern­ment to com­pel mak­ers of smart home­s­peak­ers to eaves­drop on Aus­tralians in their homes and ex­pose vi­tal in­fras­truc­ture to cy­ber at­tack, ac­cord­ing to sub­mis­sions from IT com­pa­nies.

The health data of Aus­tralians also could be mon­i­tored for in­di­ca­tions of drug use, un­der the leg­is­la­tion, warns a sub­mis­sion from Ap­ple.

The As­sis­tance and Ac­cess Bill 2018, un­der scru­tiny in the Par­lia­men­tary Joint Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence and Se­cu­rity, al­lows law en­force­ment, in­tel­li­gence agen­cies and the Depart­ment of Home Af­fairs to com­pel phone and com­puter man­u­fac­tur­ers, tel­cos, so­cial me­dia and on­line gam­ing de­vel­op­ers to in­tro­duce a “back door” or sys­temic weak­ness into their sys­tems to al­low se­cret ac­cess to cus­tomers’ en­crypted pri­vate data.

It could “re­quire the devel­op­ment of a tool that can un­lock a par­tic­u­lar user’s de­vice re­gard­less of whether such a tool could be used to un­lock ev­ery other user’s de­vice as well”, says Ap­ple.

“The Bill grants ex­traor­di­nar­ily broad and vague pow­ers [that would al­low gov­ern­ment to] force com­pa­nies to build tools that ul­ti­mately weaken the se­cu­rity of their prod­ucts or cre­ate sig­nif­i­cant cy­ber­se­cu­rity risks.”

Tech giants Google, Face­book, Ap­ple, Tel­stra, Op­tus and an al­liance of civil and dig­i­tal rights groups op­pose the Bill. In­ter­net Aus­tralia warned it would threaten Aus­tralia’s $3 bil­lion in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy and soft­ware ex­port in­dus­try.

Last week, the In­spec­torGen­eral of In­tel­li­gence and Se­cu­rity, the over­sight body for the in­tel­li­gence ser­vices, re­leased a 50-page list of con­cerns about the Bill, in­clud­ing that it con­tains a “loop­hole” that would ef­fec­tively com­pel IT providers to cre­ate weak­nesses in their sys­tems.

Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Pe­ter Dut­ton told the Na­tional Press Club last week that the leg­is­la­tion was needed by law en­force­ment and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies to com­bat ter­ror­ism and or­gan­ised crime.

A pub­lic hear­ing into the leg­is­la­tion will be held this Fri­day in Can­berra.

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