Australian laws threaten global encryption

Australia on Friday passed laws requiring tech companies to provide their users’ communications, including encrypted messages, to authorities who request them. This world premiere is hotly contested by the companies concerned, cybersecurity experts and activists for digital rights and freedoms.

The Australian government argues that new laws are needed to fight terrorism and reduce crime.

They were eagerly adopted on the last day of the Australian parliamentary session. Labor’s official opposition says it voted reluctantly to protect the public during the holidays, reports BBC News .

Companies that refuse to comply with new Australian laws face fines of up to A $ 10 million (Can $ 9.6 million).

Non-existent tools

Technology companies currently do not have access to the encrypted communications of their users. Encryption, a privacy measure, involves coding a message while traveling between its author and recipient.

This protection acts as a safe, of which only the two interlocutors have the key. Even the company designing the application used to send these encrypted messages can not read them.

The new Australian law will however force these companies to allow themselves access to the encrypted messages of its users. This means that application designers will now have to double the key of all their safes (what is called a back door or a backdoorAustralian laws threaten global encryption, in jargon).

Apple opposes

The Australian government believes that criminal groups and terrorists benefit from the protection offered by private courier services, such as WhatsApp and Signal, which have been gaining popularity in recent years.

This argument is refuted by Apple, which believes instead that encryption strengthens protections against terrorism and cyberattacks. In a letter to Australian leaders, the US company argues that encryption reduces the risk of hackers and computer attacks that could threaten the safety of individuals, businesses and government services.

Global repercussions

In the eyes of cybersecurity experts, rear doors are a weak point that threatens the security of applications for all companies doing business in Australia, including foreign giants. Computer security researchers point out that once these tools are developed, they can be used by both police and pirates anywhere in the world.

These experts are proof of the global cyberattack , which occurred in May 2017, which paralyzed hospitals in the United Kingdom. The ransomware attack was made possible by tools developed by the US National Security Agency (NSA).

“The truth is that there is simply no way to create tools to circumvent encryption without compromising digital security and eroding individual rights and freedoms,  the lawyer told The Verge. human rights Lizzie O’Shea. Pirates with bad intentions will do everything in their power to take advantage of these tools that companies are forced to provide to the government. “

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