Concerns raised about Australian cyber snooping laws with global implications

Australia encrypted data bill passes first hurdle

Australia encrypted data bill passes first hurdle

Critics anxious that software vendors would be forced to put "backdoors", or secret access methods, into their products, which could be discovered and exploited by cybercriminals or nation-states (see: Tech Companies Bristle at Australia's Crypto Legislation).

Considering the West's recent concerns over Huawei's susceptibility to similarly invasive laws in its home country of China, Australian tech manufacturers have said they fear they'll receive the same kind of ban when attempting to export their products.

"There are no safe backdoors", posted the Tor Project on Twitter in response to the bill.

Not only that, the bill enables intelligence and law enforcement officials to approach specific employees within a company to break encryption.

The Australian government also came under fire for the rushed process by which the laws were pushed through parliament.

Critics of the bill - and there are many, among them human rights groups, law groups, and cryptographers - say that it was rushed through Parliament despite vague language that leaves citizens vulnerable to having their data abused.

Whereas regulatory scrutiny has mostly been a financial threat in Europe, where tech companies can face maximum fines of up to 4 per cent of their annual turnover for privacy breaches, Australia's new bill goes further by holding individual representatives liable, as well.

As a member of the Five Eyes global alliance, laws like this could set a precedent for other countries.

"This ensures that our national security and law enforcement agencies have the modern tools they need, with appropriate authority and oversight, to access the encrypted conversations of those who seek to do us harm", said Christian Porter, Australia's attorney general.

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In the years that have followed the last slump, the sector has adjusted its cost structures, wages and employment levels, Poloz said.

Labour voted the bill through the lower house, but was still negotiating with the government on the issue and would debate it in the Senate, he added.

But the main opposition Labor party said on Thursday the bill could undermine data security and jeopardise future information sharing with authorities in the United States.

Labor had expressed many concerns about the bill as it was presented and had previously shown opposition which was dropped in a "pass now, tweak later" arrangement.

Labor said its support was contingent on the government amending the new laws in February.

However, critics have panned the laws as being short-sighted and missing the point of encryption.

In a submission to Parliament, Apple Inc. argued that weakening encryption isn't necessary to help law enforcement.

Technology companies have opposed efforts to create what they see as a back door to users' data, a stand-off that was propelled into the public arena by Apple's refusal to unlock an iPhone used by an attacker in a 2015 shooting in California.

Politicians have argued that the laws, which were passed late on Thursday, are crucial for national security.

"The real problem with the Australia encryption bill is that it will pave the way for social proof - "Australia did it and nothing bad happened", writes Jake Williams, founder of Rendition Infosec, an Atlanta-based security consultancy.

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