back to article Wow, what a lovely early Christmas present for Australians: A crypto-busting super-snoop law passes just in time

Congratulations, Australia: somehow after chaotic scenes in parliament, the government last night managed to secure after-the-bell passage of its encryption-busting eavesdropping legislation. The super-spying law, which will force websites and communications services Down Under to build in secret wiretapping capabilities for …

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  1. ma1010 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    In other news...

    Looking to next year's session, Australian PMs moot new laws to repeal the law of gravity and make both pi and e equal to 3.0.

    1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

      Re: In other news...

      and make both pi and e equal to 3.0.

      Well that would save a lot of time.

      1. stiine
        Devil

        Re: In other news...

        It would make math easier, too.*

        * - Unless you need to navigate

        1. Tom 35 Silver badge

          Re: In other news...

          Unless you need to navigate

          Or build things.

    2. Ganesha
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: In other news...

      The last incumbent to the current incompetent PM had a modicum of tek-nouse and used encryption on his personal device but assured the unwashed, using his trademark smarmy smirk, "the laws of mathematics do not override the laws of Australia".

      At the time he was referring to climate science but applied the same insouciance to economics which might explain why we are well informed & governed.

    3. GnuTzu Bronze badge
      Trollface

      Re: In other news...

      Yes, and the Earth is clearly flat.

      I fear this disease will spread, as it is clearly contagious.

      1. Jeffrey Nonken Silver badge

        Re: In other news...

        "the Earth is clearly flat."

        It cannot be. If it were, by this time cats would have pushed everything over the edge.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: In other news...

          There is a school of thought that says cats have already pushed everything over the edge, we just haven't noticed. There is a subset of this school that suggests either the cats can push, or we can notice, but not both.

        2. Someone Else Silver badge
          Pint

          @Jeffery Norken -- Re: In other news...

          "the Earth is clearly flat."

          It cannot be. If it were, by this time cats would have pushed everything over the edge.

          Post. Of. The. Week. For you, sir ----->

    4. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: In other news...

      ... make both pi and e equal to 3.0.

      e + 1 = 0

      Oh dear, this is going to get messy.

    5. entfe001
      Paris Hilton

      Re: In other news...

      Australian PMs moot new laws to repeal the law of gravity and make both pi and e equal to 3.0.

      They are 121 years late.

    6. NoneSuch
      FAIL

      Just watch...

      The first radical organizations to have their backdoors activated for monitoring will be the newspapers and online media.

      ...and I'm not f***ing joking.

      1. StargateSg7 Bronze badge

        Re: Just watch...

        Anybody in Australia want my encryption software? It works ON TOP OF and OUTSIDE of Facebook, Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, Outlook and any other major email instant messaging system that uses a browser or JAVA. With Lattice, One-time-pad and Invariate quantum computing resistant encryption algorithms built-in, and IN ADDITION we have CAAST-256 x 3 = 768 bits. Completely open source under GNU3 Open Source licence and compiled for multiple platforms.

        AND FULLY PEER-to-PEER encrypted communications if you need it!

        NO SUPPORT LIBRARIES ARE NEEDED - It's FULLY SELF-ENCLOSED CODE

        with all functions and functionality completely self-written!

        Very easy-to-read code for easy modification, VALIDATION AND VERIFICATION!

        They ain't getting ANYTHING!

        I'll put it up this next week in various places!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          > I'll put it up this next week in various places!

          You'll be announcing it here?

    7. Someone Else Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: In other news...

      "...but in Latin, "Indiana" starts with 'I'..."

      Ob. Indiana Jones paraphrase...Ooooh...see what I did there?

  2. vir Silver badge

    "Ship! Come back!"

    If it's been said once here, it's been said a thousand times: mathematics, third-party key security, etc. Now we get to see how this "technologically literate" discussion goes, or if this is just a rubber stamp on something that's already been decided.

    1. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: "Ship! Come back!"

      Well, nothing in factual reality has changed since https://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc1984 so like all anti-crypto legislation, this will make the bad guys more cunning and the only victims will be the innocent or very incompetent bad guys.

    2. Mark 65 Silver badge

      Re: "Ship! Come back!"

      There is all the usual bluster in the legislation about forcing code changes etc and that has been taken to be the backdooring of encryption. However, I think we need to look back to the GCHQ story earlier to see that the likely forced code change will be to allow 5-eyes accounts to silently be part of a group conversation i.e. A contacts B and WhatsApp/Apple/whomever silently adds GCHQ into the chat as if the end-user requested it. That is my guess at what will happen. The unfortunate part is that we are led to believe this will be on a case by case basis whereas I'm expecting it to be "in all cases" because that's just easier.

      1. Adam 1 Silver badge

        Re: "Ship! Come back!"

        @Mark, the signal protocol used by WhatsApp requires each participant to push their group key to the new user. Whilst Signal/WhatsApp can BCC all comms to 5eyes, they are not in possession of the encryption keys used by the group conversation. If they tried to push an invite out to 5eyes, then each device could notice that the administrator has pushed an invitation to a new member.

        Without weakening the security by adding a vulnerability to permit the servers to manage the session key, they cannot comply. They must either weaken security for all or refuse to comply.

        Thanks very much Labor for supporting the laws of fairy math. I had held hope that you had understood what the experts were all, without exception, telling you. History will judge you poorly for supporting such a dangerous law.

        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Re: "Ship! Come back!"

          "If they tried to push an invite out to 5eyes, then each device could notice that the administrator has pushed an invitation to a new member."

          Unless they update the app to silently ignore when certain keys are added to the conversation. When they control the client as well as everything in between, they can add eavesdropping in a way that would be invisible to the end user.

          Of course, once they have the capability to do that, you have to wonder what processes are in place to prevent (eg) someone bribing a Whatsapp staffer to give them access to a private conversation.

          1. Adam 1 Silver badge

            Re: "Ship! Come back!"

            They can update the app, but egress traffic from each participant cannot be avoided without fundamentally changing the protocol.

            And I'm not sure what you mean by ignore the keys. These are public keys of each participant for the new participant that allow them to decrypt the messages you send and allow you to decrypt messages that they are trying to send you. Ignore them, and they cannot understand you or vice versa.

            1. phuzz Silver badge

              Re: "Ship! Come back!"

              "They can update the app, but egress traffic from each participant cannot be avoided without fundamentally changing the protocol."

              AFAIK if you were traffic sniffing your phone, all you'd see is encrypted packets going to/from Whatsapp's servers, so there'd be no way to tell there.

              As for "ignoring the keys", I mean that currently if someone is added to a group chat, you would normally get a notification along the lines of "J BLoggs has been added to this chat". They could add a client side update such that when GCHQ is added to a group chat, it did not notify the user.

              This wouldn't be possible with an open protocol like PGP, but when the only way of using Whatsapp is a closed source program, there's no way of telling what's happening to your conversations other than trusting them.

              1. Adam 1 Silver badge

                Re: "Ship! Come back!"

                WhatsApp is a closed source app that implements an open source protocol (signal).

                If they add the capability to generate a new group key-pair whenever requested by the server without authorisation within the app, then a systemic weakness had just been included that anyone who manages to pwn WhatsApp servers can now exploit.

                You might as well just let the server manage the session keys.

                And if you have ever run a Java decompiler (I have but for the record, not on WhatsApp or any other application for which I did not have permission to do so), you would struggle to hide "if (request.Guid==magicGuid) return true;" inside the method responsible for collecting user's consent. The bad guys would have that line NO-OPd within minutes of it being discovered, or they will just move onto whatever other app that implements the signal protocol but is based in whoknowswhere.

                1. cyberdemon
                  Devil

                  Re: "Ship! Come back!"

                  Unfortunately Adam, I don't think the government really cares THAT much about the 'bad guys' :(

                  What governments REALLY worry about are the masses. If people en-masse got angry, they could make themselves a completely new government.

                  If some 'bad guy' blows up a hundred, or even a thousand people, it's not really a problem for a government, in the grand scheme of things. It may even help them, by keeping the masses afraid of such things and persuade them to give up some of their freedoms.

                  The kinds of people who do mass surveillance are only interested in the software used by the masses, i.e. facebook and whatsapp (at the moment).. If you went and used some third-party app that implemented the Signal protocol but didn't pass on your keystrokes to GCHQ, then you would perhaps be flagged on some watch-list or learning system for being an 'abnormal' person, but really they are not that interested in you unless you can communicate with millions of people..

      2. Mike Richards Silver badge

        Re: "Ship! Come back!"

        You'd be amazed how quickly intelligence services' positions on case-by-case wiretapping can 'evolve':

        https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/update-to-isc-on-gchq-use-of-bulk-equipment-interference-3-december-2018

        1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: "Ship! Come back!"

          Better break out that pack of one-time pads

  3. Tomato42 Silver badge

    US was big so it could strong-arm crypto makers in the 90's to implement "export grade" crypto, a mistake we most recently paid for this year, almost 20 years after it was deemed unnecessary

    somehow I don't see Ozzies to be this "successful"

    1. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Aussies will get their backdoors to services operated by Aussie companies. What happens outside that could be popcorn-time.

      In an ironic twist, it was an aussie (Eric Young) who first gave us SSLeay, the ancestor of OpenSSL, back in an era when Oz was part of the Free World and the US was almost-uniquely[1] restricted.

      I wonder how you could modify OpenSSL to open a backdoor for malicious third-party-key injection? No, I'm not going to work on it.

      [1] Among developed countries.

  4. RunawayLoop

    Watch out for an incoming "update" to your phone...

  5. redpawn Silver badge

    This is good

    It is a return to the time before people had to lock their doors. You should feel much safer now.

    1. Agamemnon

      Re: This is good

      I have lived in both places and times where "Lock Your Door" was just a concept worthy of ridicule. I would be aghast!

      Looking back, I realize now it was laziness and hubris, mostly.

      [Note: I suspect your down-vote came from someone who hasn't lived in those times, or who has and got burned.]

  6. SVV Silver badge

    They're not fair dinkum!

    This is just so much the best sounding way of avoiding the use of considered, reasoned arguments about the merits of a particular course of action for politicians, that I propose that all politicians worldwide must now do so, instead of all this Fake News! Take back control! unimaginative crap we've been hearing in the Northern hemisphere for what feels like forever.

    I think I could sort of tolerate this much better as at least it makes no pretence at being meaningful and it sounds good. Maybe after about the 500th time, I might begin to tire of it though.

  7. tcmonkey

    I’ve hated my government on many occasions but I have never, NEVER felt as ashamed of them as I do right now.

  8. SNAFUology
    Devil

    !@#$Fsg34=#5^GSHJ+ASdgAE$_wfaewgefH

    Just sent a load of old hash irregularly thru any of your usual messaging apps, make it look like some encrypted messaging - it'll drive them nuts, provided they suspect you of something of course.

    1. FooCrypt

      Re: !@#$Fsg34=#5^GSHJ+ASdgAE$_wfaewgefH

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      1. Someone Else Silver badge

        @FooCrypt -- Re: !@#$Fsg34=#5^GSHJ+ASdgAE$_wfaewgefH

        Hey! You just posted the code of Microsoft's latest C++ compiler!

        1. FooCrypt

          Re: @FooCrypt -- !@#$Fsg34=#5^GSHJ+ASdgAE$_wfaewgefH

          @Someone Else

          It was a highly sensitive message containing various amounts of the ASCII table ( 32 - 126 ) arranged in an order that constructs a message.

          Whats M$ C++ ??

      2. TimMaher
        Coat

        Re: !@#$Fsg34=#5^GSHJ+ASdgAE$_wfaewgefH

        Sorry to be pedantic but... line 50, column 16 should have been an ‘L’ rather than an ‘l’, if you are writing in higher crytpese.

        I’ll get my coat. It is the one with the OTP in the pocket.

      3. N2 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: !@#$Fsg34=#5^GSHJ+ASdgAE$_wfaewgefH

        root certificate to Microsofts DNS servers?

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: !@#$Fsg34=#5^GSHJ+ASdgAE$_wfaewgefH

      begin 644 annoy.txt

      M"FQD(&AA<V@@:7)R96=U;&%R;'D@=&AR=2!A;GD@;V8@>6]U<B!U<W5A;"!M

      M97-S86=I;F<@87!P<RP@;6%K92!I="!L;V]K(&QI:V4@<V]M92!E;F-R>7!T

      M960@;65S<V%G:6YG("T@:70G;&P@9')I=F4@=&AE;2!N=71S+"!P<F]V:61E

      K9"!T:&5Y('-U<W!E8W0@>6]U(&]F('-O;65T:&EN9R!O9B!C;W5R<V4N"@``

      `

      end

      1. FooCrypt

        Re: !@#$Fsg34=#5^GSHJ+ASdgAE$_wfaewgefH

        You know they wont look unless they match a string that proves the text is encrypted in some way...;)

        Salted__<8a>ÜRb^AU©<94>PÅÇ^K)¬º<83>6f^BûÁ;Ê}§<93>z´^HùPq&8l_È<87>²^OG~Þ[<8a>å<8d>ã²X^@U<82><9d>^_

        ....

        <83><86>X^LÙÏØÀä^N4^D£ÙC<8a>^V( 7óÓ<8f>¸78*½ønô^\ÂmÍó5<87>S<9c>C°Ùo¾

    3. Tony Paulazzo

      Re: !@#$Fsg34=#5^GSHJ+ASdgAE$_wfaewgefH

      provided they suspect you of something of course

      They always suspect you of something! It's in the nature of their work that no one is innocent...

    4. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: !@#$Fsg34=#5^GSHJ+ASdgAE$_wfaewgefH

      "Just sent a load of old hash irregularly thru any of your usual messaging apps, make it look like some encrypted messaging - it'll drive them nuts, provided they suspect you of something of course."

      Of course they'll suspect you of something if you seem to be using encryption.

      Why would you do that in the first place unless you're a Bad GuyTM who has something to fear because he has something to hide, hmm?

    5. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: !@#$Fsg34=#5^GSHJ+ASdgAE$_wfaewgefH

      Just sent a load of old hash irregularly thru any of your usual messaging apps, make it look like some encrypted messaging

      Or use a variant of Rivest's chaff-and-winnow protocol: send a bunch of noise, with the actual signal mixed in, where the recipient has a mechanism for filtering, such as validating a signature on the signal fragments.

      Encrypt all the fragments, and let the spooks decrypt them all. Only the recipient knows which are valid.

  9. FooCrypt

    They are a bunch of children, playing with our security....

    The government sets the sitting days for both houses of parliament. There was no reason what so ever to explain why the government could not have extended the parliament sitting hours yesterday, or added more days this year to resolve all the flaws in the legislation instead of packing their bags and going home, forcing Labour ( who does not have the insights into the actual intelligence reports on the xmas terrorist attacks mentioned by ASIO ) to pass the legislation.

    The 3 billion dollar Encryption export sector has just gone to ZERO....!

    If you know of immigration opportunities for encryption software companies, let me know.

    FooCrypt, prides itself on providing a solution that "takes away the ‘BAD GUYS’", including crappy legislation that destroys human rights and civil liberties. Oz Government included.

  10. John Savard Silver badge

    Puzzling

    I can only guess that the Labor Party leadership was simply terrified that a terrorist attack might happen in Australia over the Christmas holidays.

    Since there is obviously a minority government, or what the opposition Labor Party liked wouldn't have mattered, perhaps when Parliament comes back into session they could just table a bill to repeal this whole mess if amendments aren't forthcoming.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Puzzling

      With a month to even respond to a notice, this had nothing whatsoever to do with security over the holidays. More political bullshit and crappy mindless mainstream journalism, just like we're used to DU.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Puzzling

      I can only guess that the Labor Party leadership was simply terrified that a terrorist attack might happen in Australia over the Christmas holidays.

      It can happen anyway. With or without crypto-busting legislation.

      While accepting Somali (and other) refugees more or less with no questions asked in the 70-es was right and moral, not mandating integration always gets you in the end.

      It is the norm that in the absence of integration the second generation swerves widely to the right of Attila the Hun. Whatever the underlying reason, that is a well known fact.

      People may cringe at what, for example, the Danish are doing, but as far long term social stability what they are doing is the right thing. We need more of that.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Puzzling

      I can only guess that the Labor Party leadership was simply terrified that a terrorist attack might happen in Australia over the Christmas holidays.

      Let's face it... that's a bullshit argument. Unless they mean the "holidays of 2019 or later". A quick look at the calendar suggests that any attacks for this year are or should be already planned, terrorists in place, and "radio silence" enforced until the planned day all hell breaks loose.

      This just purely fear mongering and a power grab.

  11. Garymrrsn
    Joke

    Hey Yall Watch This

    "Ain't no piranhas in this encryption river! Hold our beer and we'll show ya!"

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