Aus­tralia’s En­cryp­tion Co­nun­drum

Virgin Australia Voyeur - - LESSONS EARNT -

ALONG WITH THE US, UK, Canada and New Zealand, Aus­tralia is part of what has be­come known as the world’s most for­mi­da­ble cy­ber­se­cu­rity in­tel­li­gence al­liance, the so-called ‘Five Eyes’ (FVEY). Over time, FVEY has been in­creas­ingly drawn into the murky world of cy­ber­war in de­fence of na­tional in­ter­ests, op­posed not only to coun­tries such as Rus­sia, China and North Ko­rea, but also to pro­fes­sional crim­i­nals and ter­ror­ists. To help cre­ate trans­parency, sev­eral FVEY coun­tries, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia, an­nounced plans to de­mand large in­ter­net com­pa­nies by­pass the en­cryp­tion se­cu­rity used by mes­sag­ing apps such as Face­book’s What­sApp. The plans drew crit­i­cism, with scep­tics ac­cus­ing na­tions of want­ing to im­ple­ment large-scale sur­veil­lance of blame­less cit­i­zens sim­ply to track down a hand­ful of ex­trem­ists and crim­i­nals. Aus­tralia seems par­tic­u­larly keen to pur­sue some form of ‘back­door’ ac­cess, although it isn’t yet clear how this would work with­out un­der­min­ing the very se­cu­rity peo­ple value in th­ese apps. By­pass­ing en­cryp­tion could be dif­fi­cult to im­ple­ment and might sim­ply drive crim­i­nals to use other apps. Oth­ers worry that gov­ern­ments them­selves are no longer se­cure enough to pro­tect the data they gather, and that break­ing into en­crypted mes­sages would serve as just another ini­ti­a­tion to hack­ers look­ing to steal per­sonal data.

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