Australian Government Continues To Push Encryption Backdoors It Refuses To Call Encryption Backdoors

from the 'we-like-to-call-them-little-miracles' dept

The Australian government has decided it can beat math at its own game. The laws of math will be defeated by the laws of Australia, the government declared last year. In an effort to tackle something this article calls “terror encryption,” the Home Office says laws punching holes in encryption for government access are just around the corner.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull may not understand the laws of mathematics or how signing a bunch of words into law doesn’t actually suspend them, but he does know tech companies are going to figure it out for him. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton agrees: the government just needs to mandate broken encryption and the tech companies will handle the rest. It’s for the good of the country, if not the world.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says ubiquitous encryption – a tool used for secure personal banking platforms and some messaging services – has become a major obstacle to terror investigations.

“We know that more than 90 per cent of counter-terrorism targets are using it for communications, including for attack planning here,” Mr Dutton told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.

“More than 90 per cent.” That’s seems high! I’m sure it’s based on rigorous examination of facts and probably includes terrorists visiting bank websites or anything else with an HTTPS URL. Dutton wants platform providers and device makers to make it as easy as dropping a wiretap on a phone line, so it’s clear the government isn’t just seeking access to data at rest.

Whatever it is that the Australian government wants, it seems unable to articulate in words. The analogies used (phone wiretaps) suggest the stuff Dutton says he doesn’t want is exactly what he wants.

Mr Dutton said he didn’t want a “backdoor key” to encrypted devices or a licence to hack into services.

But he argued law enforcement access to encrypted communications should be on the same basis as telephone and other intercepts, in response to warrants issued by the court.

If Dutton wants access to ongoing communications on platforms secured with end-to-end encryption, than a backdoor or a golden key is really what he wants, even if he’s unwilling to say so in public. Dutton also suggests companies will be punished for “allowing” terrorists to communicate using their encrypted platforms.

“Companies ought to be concerned with the reputational harm that comes from terrorists and criminals using their encryption and social media platforms for illicit ends,” he said.

“As a society we should hold these companies responsible when their service is used to plan or facilitate unlawful activity.

I’m sure Dutton has more in mind than officious bad-mouthing of uncooperative tech companies by government officials. If holes are mandated, companies will be facing more than “reputational damage.” But tut-tutting about scofflaw tech companies isn’t going to budge the public opinion needle. Many people trust their communication platforms far more than their governments. And they value personal security and privacy far more than they value government access to communications, no matter how often the word “terrorism” is deployed as a justification.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Australian Government Continues To Push Encryption Backdoors It Refuses To Call Encryption Backdoors”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: so

why what’s the point?

Ever met anyone that learned anything after being told, “I told you so?”

If they had the intellectual capacity to learn from “I told you so” then you would not ever be in a situation to have to tell them that “I told you so”.

They only double down on the stupid or get angry at you for victim blaming.

Anonymous Coward says:

"Companies ought to be concerned with the reputational harm that comes from terrorists and criminals using their encryption and social media platforms for illicit ends," he said.

And governments should be worried about the recreational harm of criminals and crooks using the public roads for illicit purposes.

Anonymous Coward says:

"As a society we should hold these companies responsible when their service is used to plan or facilitate unlawful activity."

By this logic, we should hold politicians accountable when they pass laws that are later used to facilitate unconstitutional activity. After all, they knew or reasonably should have known that their laws would be used that way.

ECA (profile) says:


Anyone here know 6th grade math??
How about HOW a combination lock works and why they are CRAP??

Almost everything I have heard about terrorism and Cellphones, has said they DONT use smart phones. FOR many reasons. Including being tracked. With the Old nes you could Guess which cell tower they were NEAR..

AND if you really want coverage, you get a SAT phone that costs ALLOT of money to even talk on.

Even using a SMART phone. having a Chat program that DOES the scrambling, ISNT much of a problem.. Even if it ONLY requires a password to open Chat.. A High security feature to Erase everything…isnt hard either..

Im not saying, that BASIC intelligence would say that this is a BAD thing, its just a VERY VERY HARD thing..

WHY DO WE ENCODE PHONES anyway?? hmm I wonder.. does it have anything to do with DIGITAL ENCODING each individual signal, so that More then 1 can send/receive on the same channel, and the phone can sort out which is ITS OWN data??

That sounds interesting..

Anonymous Coward says:

Sure, let's do this

” Dutton also suggests companies will be punished for “allowing” terrorists to communicate using their encrypted platforms.”

Interesting. Should goverments also be punished by allowing terrorists to communicate using their encrypted platforms? Because any government that’s deployed encryption on their web site or mail server or anything else is doing exactly that, because EVERYONE — terrorists and non-terrorists — are communicating via their encrypted platform.

Mike Shore (profile) says:

“As a society we should hold these companies responsible when their service is used to plan or facilitate unlawful activity.”

When I get caught speeding, the following should be held responsible:

  • the car manufacturer, for building a car capable of exceeding the speed limit
  • the gas station, for selling gasoline
  • the highway maintenance crews, for keeping the roads safe
  • the DMV, for providing me with a driver’s license
Anonymous Legend says:

When they talk about countering “terrorism” they are really talking about fighting the “global war” that they started, based on lies, overwhelmingly against the wishes of their citizens.

And even if I supported their illegitimate perpetual war, I would not support this, as the current Australian government is so corrupt and lawless that I have no real doubt that they are already abusing their surveillance tools to go after domestic political enemies.

Boycott anyone that supports these criminals in any way – especially corporate donors. If you don’t then *you* are supporting them.

discordian_eris (profile) says:


If passed and enforced, I think that Australia may end up being isolated. There is no way that Apple, Google and all the rest will compromise the rest of the Internet on Australia’s say-so. I understand that many companies make a lot of money in Australia, but I can also foresee many (if not most) walking away from them entirely.

Or doing something truly awesome (from my warped point of view). Making sure that zero encryption is allowed to be used in Australia. And most importantly, for communications leaving/entering AU, refusing all communications that should be encrypted, but aren’t.

delenda est carthago

Turnbull the Backstabber says:

Coalition Dumbness

You are talking about a government which only just got back into power off the back of overseas voters, a prime minister who stabbed the last pm in the back to steal power. A banker who has no morals and a cabinet team who is comlplicit in this betrayal of the australian people. no wonder they entertain stupid ideas because they have nothing of their own. This idiot Turnbull is going away next election, just you wait and see. Turnbull is a traitor to the australian people.

That One Guy (profile) says:

While you're at it...

Criminals use vehicles to commit crimes.

Automobile manufacturers and sellers know that criminals use vehicles to commit crimes.

Therefore if those manufacturers and sellers don’t somehow make it so that criminals cannot use their products, they should clearly be held accountable as well.

It’s not like it’s a difficult problem to solve or anything, it’s just that currently those two groups are too lazy and focused on profits to really care about the crimes committed by their products, and as such it’s only right that a law be passed to ‘encourage’ them to solve the trivial issue.

Anonymous Coward says:

90 per cent of counter-terrorism targets.

Notice the word TARGETS? that means every single australian citizen since their government has been engaged in secret storage of basically every single transaction via HTTP and every voice call since 2009.

So technically “90% of targets” is correct, as thats 90% of the population has AT SOME TIME used some sort of encryption.

R2_v2.0 (profile) says:

It does add up!

In unrelated news, the Turnbull government has legislated a solution to the ‘Pi problem’. A spokesman said, “Despite the hysterical declarations that ‘its irrational’, we’ve today passed historic legislation to require Pi to be less difficult to write down. Today we make it clear that Pi is required to follow the laws of the commonwealth rather than the laws of mathematics;

still_anon says:

When the “terrorists & criminals” drive down a road paved by the government or drink water from from the tap provided by the government, is the government aiding and abetting the “terrorists & criminals”? Is the company that made the car?How about the companies that made the glass or the faucet? How far is too far with 3rd party liability? I am guessing the answer is something short of governmental responsibility.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...