back to article When's a backdoor not a backdoor? When the Oz government says it isn't

Australia's promised “not-a-backdoor” crypto-busting bill is out and the government has kept its word - it doesn't want a backdoor, just the keys to your front one. The draft of The Assistance and Access Bill 2018 calls for anyone using or selling communications services in Australia to be subject to police orders for access …

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  1. Khaptain Silver badge

    Welcome to China

    Jdnnazhfnmioelanbucuidjebgazucifje.

    (Decrypted version by means of me being a good cop)

    All your Kangaroos are us.

  2. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Double Plus Good

    Relax citizen.

    The "if you've got nothing to hide" brigade will be here any minute!

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Double Plus Good

      If you do have something to hide, it doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Double Plus Good

        If you do have something to hide it means you're abiding by the T&Cs of your bank, online vendors etc etc etc. I take it Oz doesn't have much of a financial services or ecommerce sector; either that or they're trying to get rid of them.

      2. Scroticus Canis Silver badge
        Big Brother

        Re: Double Plus Good - "...doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong."

        Ah, but who's definition of wrong will this operate under?

    2. dbgi

      Re: Double Plus Good

      You have everything to hide, if you have something to fear.

    3. Avatar of They Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Double Plus Good

      I hate that phrase with a passion. There are plenty of legal things I would like to hide from anyone else. But numbnuts in parliament and do gooders think its fine.

      I argued this with my MP about whether she should sign the snoopers charter and she came out with the same stupid half arsed argument. (she voted for it in the end)

      Bereavement, redundancy, bankruptcy, terminal illness, domestic abuse victim, rape victim, marital troubles, criminal convictions to name the ones I can remember from my argument with the MP.

      Why should anyone else get to know about them? (She had no answer either.)

      Sad times for Oz.

      1. dave 81

        Re: Double Plus Good

        Ditto, same argument with My MP, even wrote a huge open letter to the bastard. Ignored it completely, and voted for it.

        I ended up by helping fund the legal challenges to it. More than I have ever done for any political party.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Double Plus Good

        "Bereavement, redundancy, bankruptcy, terminal illness, domestic abuse victim, rape victim, marital troubles, criminal convictions to name the ones I can remember from my argument with the MP."

        You asked her the wrong things. You should have asked her for her bank, Amazon, eBay etc details and passwords. And been prepared to explain why in words of one syllable or less.

        1. Avatar of They Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Double Plus Good

          They were in there as well, she mentioned the NSPCC were pushing for it and ignored all other conversations.

        2. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: Double Plus Good

          You asked her the wrong things. You should have asked her for her bank, Amazon, eBay etc details and passwords. And been prepared to explain why in words of one syllable or less.

          More productive to ask for details of her deals with party leadership on voting and records of conversations with whips. Wouldn't get you anywhere, but might illuminate why.

        3. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: Double Plus Good

          "You asked her the wrong things."

          Should have asked about her Tindr/Grindr account...

  3. Phil Kingston Silver badge

    I read this as them wanting a method to take covert screenshots of the unencrypted messages. Should be a fun one to watch at any rate.

    1. David Shaw
      Holmes

      “Covert screenshots”

      Some versions of macOS ‘helpfully’ store both a jpg and a png image of all web pages viewed in Safari, one high res & one low-res. It includes user generated text in google search, translate etc. stored deep in ~/Library

      Allegedly it is part of the macOS smooth transition from one webpage to another, if you are scrolling sideways back into history , for example, you see not very greeked cartoon pages of where you were. Might be a valid use of the UI, but one of my Macs had years of images and it was fascinating, forensically, to see what I was up to in 2012. (TimeCapsule backed-up these dual images of each webpage, for some reason)

  4. Danny 5

    Awesome

    So how many times are we going to see such technical decisions that are made by people who have no idea of what those decisions imply? Oh and why do those people think they can fool people who actually do have the required knowledge? You can't spin bullshit if your audience is 100x more knowledgeable than you.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Awesome

      "You can't spin bullshit if your audience is 100x more knowledgeable than you."

      But Sir!

      That goes right to the heart of the Westminster system!!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Awesome

        ""You can't spin bullshit if your audience is 100x more knowledgeable than you."

        But Sir!

        That goes right to the heart of the Westminster system!!"

        You might very well think that. I couldn't possibly comment.

        ps

        The Westminster system doesn't have a heart. Just an alleged list of people's misdeeds, and details of their finances.

    2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Re: Awesome

      You can't spin bullshit if your audience is 100x more knowledgeable than you.

      This, unfortunately, is only true for the small minority of people who are aware of the technical or social implications. Such as you find among El Reg readers and commentards. The majority of voters though, at least in my perception, are deceived/convinced by the criminally moronic phrase "if you've got nothing to hide..." or simply don't care at all.

      Where's the We Are Fscked icon?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Awesome

      So how many times are we going to see such technical decisions that are made by people who have no idea of what those decisions imply

      -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

      That's just it. These are not technical decisions, they are political decisions.

      Any technical issues are irrelevant about what matters to them - power, control, and how many votes they can sleaze out of the issue.

    4. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Awesome

      So how many times are we going to see such technical decisions that are made by people who have no idea of what those decisions imply?

      They're politicians not techies. Here in the States there's only a couple of legislators who have a grasp of the issue. The rest (not tech knowledgeable types) want votes, not solutions and thus they come up with stupid solutions to complex problems. It's not just tech stuff, but pretty much anything more than a decision on the dinner menu and maybe what wine goes with what dish.

      You can't spin bullshit if your audience is 100x more knowledgeable than you.

      See above, not for us techies but votes and <cough>campaign contributions<cough>. So far, techies have been ignored or (in the case of Zuck's appearance in Congress) asked about issues that pretty basic or downright wrong. The "baffle them with BS" answers seemed to have satisfied those legislators.

    5. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: Awesome

      They know quite well what the decisions imply. They just choose to ignore it.

      Hence skype is no longer p2p, Large corporates will always try to make money and they will comply with the law. Combine legal requirements with financial self interest and you have a winner.

      The "you will not tell your tell anyone" provisions is for the corporate's benefit, not Australians.

      There are still problems. Obviously on-prem kit has to go. We can't have that messing up our surveilance. Cloud it is, then.

  5. Bush_rat

    Question:

    What are the proposed rules for temporary communications? I.e, if Alice hands letters to Bob, Bob reads and then burns them, they cannot be compelled to supply the information lost surely?

    1. DavidRa

      Re: Question:

      Of course they can, because they might be discussing terrywrism. With the threat of $50K fines hanging over their heads, we'll end up developing new capabilities - like the reconstruction of paper after burning, or creating the recording of a conversation years after it happened.

      After all, if the laws of mathematics can be bypassed, physics and chemistry should be easy and reversal of entropy not far behind.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Question:

      Too late!

      I've already reported Bob and Alice to the Department of Magic Backdoors!

      Carol and Ted are next!

      * anyone old enough for that reference?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Question:

        "anyone old enough for that reference?"

        The film (1969) in spite of an over-18 rating was eclipsed by "Women in Love" at our local flea pit.

        1. Thoguht Silver badge

          Re: Question:

          Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice was rated "X", so that's over-16, not over-18. It's rated 15 now.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Question:

            "[...] was rated "X", so that's over-16, not over-18."

            According to Wikipedia - from 1963 to 1982 the British Certificate X was 18 and over. The films in question were released in the UK in 1969/70.

            My mistake earlier by saying "over 18" when I meant "18 and over".

          2. 's water music Silver badge

            Re: Question:

            rated "X", so that's over-16, not over-18

            You made me look, and I see that 1969 was the last year before the X classification was changed to over-18 (which is my own memory of it. Sadly I was not old enough to manage to see any X-rated film before the change-over to to the much less evocative 18 classification in 1982. I remember the anticipation of Channel Four's Red Triangle films

        2. Mike Ozanne

          Re: Question:

          "The film (1969) in spite of an over-18 rating was eclipsed by "Women in Love" at our local flea pit."

          You all wanted to see Olly Reed wrestling naked?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Question:

            "You all wanted to see Olly Reed wrestling naked?"

            The young women in our group of friends wanted to see that scene. It was another year before any of us saw the opposite sex naked in the flesh.

    3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Question:

      " if Alice hands letters to Bob, Bob reads and then burns them, they cannot be compelled to supply the information lost surely?"

      It doesn't work like that. Alice hands the letters to the gummint. The gummint reads them, makes a copy, decides whether to hand them on. If they decide to hand them on they do, Bob reads them and burns them. Gummint keeps its copy.

    4. Kabukiwookie

      Re: Question:

      Simple. Alice goes to jail or gets find $50,000.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Coat

        Re: Question:

        > Alice goes to jail or gets find $50,000

        There's a choice? I'd prefer to find $50,000.

        (sorry - mine's the one with $50k in the pocket)

    5. Schultz
      Mushroom

      What if ... Bob reads and then burns the letter?

      It's a matter of time until the dangerous act of Making Fire will be regulated. It's one of the oldest tool of terrorist!

      1. jonathan keith

        Re: What if ... Bob reads and then burns the letter?

        Bob will have made a mistake. After a period of re-education, Bob will be returned to society, secure in the knowledge that it is *books* he should be burning. Perhaps he might even get a job with the Fire Brigade.

  6. Oengus Silver badge

    The Holy Trinity

    "the government wants to apprehend terrorists, paedophiles and organised crime"

    Ah, the Holy Trinity of the security agencies. Why is that every privacy invading idea from the governments and security agencies across the globe have the same target but the legislation is always so broad that it encompasses everyone?

    1. Bush_rat

      Re: The Holy Trinity

      What, do you support paedophilia?

      /s

    2. Vanir

      Re: The Holy Trinity

      Because anyone of everyone could be a terrorist, paedophile or participant in organised crime.

      Security services of the Western democracies have to have evidence that can be presented to a court of law and a jury.

      If these agencies are denied the means to get evidence from communication channels then there is no chance of them carrying out their legal responsibilities.

      One of the primary responsibilities of democratic government is to protect the people that put them in office. If a these governments cannot do this then what do we have?

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: The Holy Trinity

        > If these agencies are denied the means to get evidence from communication channels then there is no chance of them carrying out their legal responsibilities.

        Not our problem. Police work is only easy in a police state.

        > One of the primary responsibilities of democratic government is to protect the people that put them in office. If a these governments cannot do this then what do we have?

        Well, we could guarantee to "protect" everyone by locking everyone up in solitary confinement from birth - some compromises are required in a free society.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The Holy Trinity

          "Well, we could guarantee to "protect" everyone by locking everyone up in solitary confinement from birth - some compromises are required in a free society."

          No, because the same compromises are used against you, and there's no way around the fact the compromises inevitably take you down, resulting in anarchy. So you're ultimately left with a dilemma: anarchy or the police state?

          1. phuzz Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: The Holy Trinity

            So you're ultimately left with a dilemma: anarchy or the police state?

            You might have noticed that while some countries are effectively anarchies, and some are police states, there also exist many (ie most) countries which manage to strike a balance between the two. Very likely you live in one of those 'middle' countries.

            So really the dilemma is; anarchy, a police state, or a sensible compromise between the two.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The Holy Trinity

              "there also exist many (ie most) countries which manage to strike a balance between the two."

              FOR NOW. Longer-term, however, none of them stay very stable because the balance is too difficult to keep. Ultimately, someone comes along strong enough to just flat upset it. America''s probably on the cusp of this right now. Others provide recent evidence. It's only a matter of time.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: The Holy Trinity

                "FOR NOW. Longer-term, however, none of them stay very stable because the balance is too difficult to keep. Ultimately, someone comes along strong enough to just flat upset it. America''s probably on the cusp of this right now. Others provide recent evidence. It's only a matter of time."

                Citations needed. Besides, unless these powers are used reasonably against known criminals, ordinary folks will just find some other way to communicate that the powers that be cannot snoop on. Don't forget, it was Snowden's confirmation of mass surveillance that led to more widespread use of encryption in the first place. If this unreasonable invasion of privacy continues, someone will just invent a new way to communicate that has a new way to evade the snooping, therefore closing the door to the current methods used by the government so they'll end up with less data rather than more. I am sure that the police would be far better served searching a database of relevant data populated with known criminals than trying to find meaning in a haystack of infinite size containing mostly law abiding citizens, which would only serve to mask the true criminals hidden within.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: The Holy Trinity

                  "If this unreasonable invasion of privacy continues, someone will just invent a new way to communicate that has a new way to evade the snooping, therefore closing the door to the current methods used by the government so they'll end up with less data rather than more."

                  You assume there IS a way, but you overestimate the intelligence of the average human being or have your forgotten the while President Trump deal? Unless you can make it turnkey easy AND bulletproof at the same time (which I bet you can't--security and ease of use tend to be on opposite ends of the scale: see front doors), there WILL be weaknesses that a state (where money isn't always an object) can exploit (thus the data center in Utah, which I still believe is just a front for a black-project quantum computer--black projects HAVE come from the US in the past; see the SR-71).

                  1. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

                    Re: The Holy Trinity

                    Aside from your over the top levels of arrogance contained in your post, the particular group of people I hang out with every week happen to consider this a challenge, not an impossibility. I'm involved in the hardware and process engineering end of things, others in software, and the cryptographers are the source of the maths needed. I'd do maths but I long ago lost any interest in the theoretical side. Applying what's been learned is my meat and potatoes.

                    Thanks though for mentioning the SR-71. Take everything you've read and chuck it right out the window. It flew earlier than 1964. Much earlier. My mother was there for an emergency landing at her naval air station. She also got to see it going flat out after it took off. Right time to see what wasn't allowed talking about.

                  2. GIRZiM

                    Re: The Holy Trinity

                    "Unless you can make it turnkey easy AND bulletproof at the same time (which I bet you can't--security and ease of use tend to be on opposite ends of the scale: see front doors), there WILL be weaknesses that a state (where money isn't always an object) can exploit."

                    Football matches are pretty loud - you can probably communicate with your criminal compatriots by word of mouth at one of those without too much difficulty, provided you use a (not necessarily too complex) code.

                    I believe spies/secret agents used to talk to each other F2F in bathrooms with the shower/bath taps running in the days before email/IRC/Facebook.

                    It may not be bulletproof: I may be wrong but football scarves aren't generally so to the best of my knowledge and it might be a good idea to plan your crimes in countries where the police/locals aren't armed (just in case, you know).

                    But, unless one (or more) of you is deaf/mute, It's pretty easy - I'd go so far as to say 'turnkey easy' myself.

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: The Holy Trinity

                      Ubiquitous high-res cameras and lip readers. Noise and location are no longer an issue. Try again.

                      1. GIRZiM
                        FAIL

                        Re: The Holy Trinity

                        Lip-readers?

                        Ha ha ha ha ha!

                        Know many deaf people, do you?

                        I've known a few myself.

                        Lip-reading ain't what you think it is and the 'Bad Lip-reading' videos are pretty much on the button.

                        Add to that the fact that people turn their heads from time to time and you lose whole sections of what they're saying because (inconveniently) they didn't face another camera directly.

                        Done much work with surveillance cameras, have you?

                        I've done a bit myself and while there's some impressive tech available, it's expensive and not terribly widespread.

                        People with their collars up don't help matters.

                        People with scarves over their mouths because it's cold (which happens quite frequently in countries that aren't the U.K., Australia or California) don't help help either.

                        People sitting at an awkward angle.

                        People sitting too far from the outdated, low cost, low quality publicly installed camera that was the only thing that had an angle on your target because you didn't have the budget for more than one observation team and could only capture one of them... you guessed it, they don't help much either.

                        Yeah, it's all very impressive and intimidating when you watch 'Mission Impossible' or 'Minority Report' or whatever but they're not terribly representative of what actually happens in the real world.

                        In the real world almost nobody has the budget for that kind of operation and, when they do, it's targeted and the technology required not at all ubiquitous.

                        Try again.

                    2. onefang Silver badge

                      Re: The Holy Trinity

                      "it might be a good idea to plan your crimes in countries where the police/locals aren't armed"

                      Police in Australia are armed, the locals not so much.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: The Holy Trinity

            "No, because the same compromises are used against you, and there's no way around the fact the compromises inevitably take you down, resulting in anarchy. So you're ultimately left with a dilemma: anarchy or the police state?"

            Your 'argument' of "police state or anarchy" (with nothing in between) is just another loaded phrase along the lines of "if you've nothing to hide you've nothing to fear". Where do people get this bullshit idea from that it's either anarchy or a police state? Ever heard of balance? I doubt many people would have a problem with the police/government only going after known bad guys and leaving the rest of society some modicum of privacy, that sounds fairly reasonable, but why does every Tom, Dick and Charles 9 need the state or anyone else rummaging through their personal business? There's absolutely no valid reason for it at all. If you really believe that, please post your banking details, account numbers, sort code, PIN number, email login, etc. etc. After all, you wouldn't want anarchy taking over, now would you?

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