Australian Crime Commission: Only Criminals Use Encrypted Communications
from the stupefying-is-the-new-anti-encryption-normal dept
Well, someone finally said the quiet part loud: some government officials actually believe the only people who need, want, or use encryption are criminals. Here’s Asha Barbaschow with the “encryption is for criminals” news at ZDNet.
The Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) believes there is no legitimate reason for a law-abiding member of the community to own or use an encrypted communication platform.
“These platforms are used almost exclusively by SOC [serious and organised crime] groups and are developed specifically to obscure the identities of the involved criminal entities and enable avoidance of detection by law enforcement,” the ACIC declared. “They enable the user to communicate within closed networks to facilitate highly sophisticated criminal activity”.
This is part of the ACIC’s comments [PDF] on proposed surveillance legislation that would grant Australian law enforcement new powers to disrupt data transmissions, surveil network activity, and engage in takeovers of targeted accounts. Here’s the money shot:
ACIC observation shows there is no legitimate reason for a law-abiding member of the community to own or use an encrypted communication platform.
Well… holy shit. That’s a take.
The ACIC believes today’s criminals are too powerful and law enforcement too poorly-equipped. According to the Commission, criminals are winning the tech war.
The encryption and anonymisation that underpins the Dark Web and encrypted communications has challenged existing powers and allowed serious and organised crime (SOC) groups and individuals to more effectively conceal their criminal activity. In particular, the networks established on the Dark Web and via encrypted communications have provided criminals with platforms to easily and more confidently communicate anonymously about, and obfuscate, their serious criminal activities.
The electronic surveillance powers currently available to the ACIC, while relied upon for investigating many aspects of criminal behaviour online and criminal use of encrypted communications, are not sophisticated enough to identify and disrupt the totality of activities SOC entities are undertaking through the use of modern anonymising technologies to conceal their identities, their associate’s identities and the illegal activities being undertaken by the network of individuals.
I’ve got bad news for law enforcement and the Commission: no matter what steps are taken and how many innocent people are victimized by expansions of government power, it will still be impossible to “disrupt the totality” of illegal activity. Sophisticated criminal organizations engaged in crime long before encryption was readily available and found creative ways to hide their misdeeds from investigators. It’s not going to change just because no one — not even innocent people who would like to protect their data and personal information from criminals — has access to encryption.
The ACIC’s broad declaration that no one has a “legitimate reason” to utilize encrypted communication platforms is at odds with the paragraph directly preceding this truly baffling assertion.
Encryption and anonymising technologies have a valuable role in protecting the privacy and data of Australians. As such, the ACIC notes new powers cannot be exclusively focused on subverting encryption and anonymising technologies.
I’m not sure how you reconcile these two statements. And apparently the ACIC doesn’t know either, because it simply claims no non-criminal would need encrypted communications and immediately moves on to the discussion of the new warrant powers being proposed.
This is a horrifyingly ignorant claim for a government commission to make. The worst aspect is that someone with the power to write laws is going to believe the ACIC. Those who already believe (without evidence) that encrypted communications are only used by criminals are going to accept this assertion as evidence, even if the ACIC can’t even be bothered to back up its own claim with any data or research. “Based on observation” is meaningless if the Crime Commission does nothing but observe criminal activity. This is stupid. And it would be laughable if it weren’t so dangerous.