Australian Encryption Bill – An Exploitable Backdoor in the Startup Community -

Australian government are working to the bone in order to get past the hurdles of intrusive data surveillance

Being a member of the Five Eyes, the Australian government has officially introduced Australia’s Assistance and Access Bill 2018 to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security for consideration. This anti-encryption bill is expected to be a global paradigm for leaping over the obstructive internet surveillance. This being said, the bill is expected to agitate the startup community.

The Australian encryption bill seeks access, under the law, to decrypt any encrypted communication which is liable to contain any criminal activity. The major motive behind this encryption bill is to aid law enforcement in putting
the wrong-doers behind the bars. Therefore, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of the Liberal-National Coalition is determined to turn the bill into law by the end of the
year.

While the intention behind the implementation of this bill seems healthy, the bill can still be a well-camouflaged exploitable backdoor for the startup businesses.

Co-founder of block-chain startup Loki, Josh Jessop-Smith is concerned that the Australian encryption bill would entirely undermine their project. Furthermore, he said that those entrepreneurs having their project built on the value of encryption may start setting up their startups somewhere else.

Jessop-Smith believes that in near future, this bill may restrain the growth of Australia around technology. The main concern is that by allowing law enforcement to access encrypted data, it is a possibility that the business deal revolving around that data may become vulnerable and thus, get exploited easily.

Countering these concerns, the encryption bill’s explanatory document put forth by the Department of Home Affairs states,

“A technical assistance notice or technical capability notice has no effect to the extent it requires a designated communications provider to implement or build a systemic weakness, or a systemic vulnerability, into a form of electronic protection. Electronic protection includes forms of encryption or passcode authentication such as rate limits on a device.”

Furthermore, it explains that this limitation ensures that providers cannot be asked to implement or build so-called ‘backdoors’ into their products or services.

But Jessop-Smith is still worried about the unintended consequences this bill may lead to. Moreover, he adds up by saying, “We’ve seriously been considering doing the majority of our work elsewhere, it’s unsettling having to potentially install software that puts backdoors into our systems.”

The Australian encryption bill has made it crystal clear that any website, social media host, internet company or device manufacturer would face fines of up to $10 million for each case of non-compliance. They would be forced to work along with the law enforcement and aid them in cracking codes or removing any barriers for the government, from their private data.

However, the danger still is inevitable that if encrypted data is accessible to law enforcement, then it can surely become accessible to the criminals as well. Therefore, according to Jessop-Smith, “The bad will far outweigh the good this encryption bill would do.”

Lizzie O’Shea, a board member for the Digital Rights Watch, emphasized that encryption is now being used in everyday life and to protect the data from getting into the hands of criminals or the black market. She explains that once this bill turns into a law then it will put every Australian at risk, rather than just targeting the criminals.

Moreover, she said that if anti-encryption tools are created for the purpose of tracking criminals then they can easily be used to fulfill other purposes as well. If the federal government succeeds in doing so, then every Australian’s privacy will be compromised in the end, even their bank accounts.

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