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Australia to float 'not backdoors' that behave just like backdoors to Five-Eyes meeting

Search warrants can crack crypto are reasonable, says PM's infosec advisor

By Richard Chirgwin, 7 Jun 2017

Australia has joined the list of countries whose politicians hope to crack encryption by fiat, with the nation's attorney-general George Brandis saying he’s going to take the government’s concerns to “Five Eyes” partners the USA, UK, New Zealand Canada.

Brandis and Australia's cyber security special advisor Alastair MacGibbon have taken to the airwaves in the last 24 hours to explain how they feel technology companies can help to make it harder for terrorists and criminals to communicate.

Brandis told Sky News "If those encrypted communications contain information which is necessary to a prosecution, an intelligence task like keeping a terrorism suspect under appropriate surveillance, then there does need to be a level of co-operation from the carriage services providers."

Speaking on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's AM program, MacGibbon also called for "co-operation" and said that while "no-one is talking about back doors here" Australians understand that their privacy at home can be breached when Police gain a warrant to enter their homes.

"From time to time we do expect our privacy to be breached," he said, adding "From time to time you would expect a law enforcement agency to break into a private communication online."

MacGibbon did not explain how such break-ins would be possible without service providers decrypting communications. The Register cannot therefore interpret his comments as anything other than a suggestion that providers of communications services provide backdoors that break their encryption.

Australia will take its vague plans to the next meeting of the intelligence-sharing community in Canada at the end of this month.

An Internet crackdown of some kind has become bipartisan policy, with opposition leader Bill Shorten also saying terrorists shouldn’t be able to hide on the Internet.

Last week, Australia’s Wickr-using Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his cyber minister Dan Tehan held a round-table with carriers, ISPs and social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Google (via YouTube). Turnbull later complained the over-the-top platforms are too tolerant of “extremist material,” and demanded more cooperation from them.

Australia's ideas will likely find receptive ears at the next Five Eyes meeting. UK prime minister Theresa May called for internet companies to deny terrorists safe places to converse earlier this week, while US President Donald Trump has made many comments expressing a desire to stop terrorists talking. ®

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