back to article Australia to float 'not backdoors' that behave just like backdoors to Five-Eyes meeting

Australia has joined the list of countries whose politicians hope to crack encryption by fiat, with the nation's attorney-general George Brandis saying he’s going to take the government’s concerns to “Five Eyes” partners the USA, UK, New Zealand Canada. Brandis and Australia's cyber security special advisor Alastair MacGibbon …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To be fair...

    ...he wasn't proposing that security agencies have access to the content of any communications (and thus needing to bypass the encryption), but was suggesting that knowing who spoke to who and when would be sufficient for most investigations.

    I did not think his analogy of the police searching someone's house was an appropriate one. A more accurate analogy would be the police getting access to footage from a CCTV camera at your house and being able to see who visited and when for as far back as they wanted. Entirely different kettle of fish and that's without touching on what hoops they would need to jump through in order to get such access....

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: To be fair...

      Australia USA, UK, New Zealand Canada. do have a point - other countries seem to encrypt almost all their communications. It's like they have a different word for everything. Some of the really sneaky ones don't even use proper letters

      1. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

        Re: To be fair...

        > Some of the really sneaky ones don't even use proper letters

        なんてこと、あのやろう!

        1. Rattus Rattus

          Re: To be fair...

          あらあら、すごいですね

    2. FozzyBear Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Re: To be fair...

      Yeah. NO!.

      Australian Authorities like any other from the US, UK or Canada already have the capability to listen in on communications via special telecommunications warrants. Those warrants grant them the ability to record ( and/or listen in on) any communications to or from the nominated number. They also already have the ability to request call charge records to list all numbers to or from a nominated number.

      What we have here is another example of a government official trying to keep the fear level up enough that they can waltz in any bit of legalisation they want. Be damned our rights, freedoms or that what they ask for is impossible.

      Seriously the quicker Brandis and his moronic ideas are kicked (preferably via the testicles) to the kerb the better off we will be.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: To be fair...

        "They also already have the ability to request call charge records to list all numbers to or from a nominated number."

        Not going to help much for WhatsApp though is it? Hence the desire for carriers et al to hand over the WhatsApp equivalent of call records which I suggest is a) possible and b) reasonable so long as due process is followed. Not picking on WhatsApp, just using it as an example.

        PS. Judging by yours and other comments, it's not just the other side that are fear mongering...

      2. JohnDravolt

        Re: To be fair...

        This is a crazy world. Just one year ago I started using TOR Browser whenever I was lookin somethin up which is not "sociable". However this paranoia is exactly what the government wants you to feel. Lets learn how to encrypt our communication and how to obscure our identity. I already use Threema and Wickr.

      3. Mark 65 Silver badge

        Re: To be fair...

        I'd love to see a protester smash Brandis in the nuts, preferably like in the game show on Idiocracy.

  2. GrumpyOldBloke

    5 Eyes is our Greatest Threat

    The means has become the ends. Principles of trust and privacy must be discarded to feed the monster which is 5 eyes (or 14 eyes as another thread suggested it has become). Not because it has any value but because it now has a life of its own and we must be part of this US led school for bastardy. Lord knows we have the morals for it. Malcolm in a muddle has bipartisan support from the rubber chicken leading the opposition - no surprise there. Convenient that all this wailing and gnashing of teeth has drowned out the allegations of corruption levelled against our two major parties over Chinese donations.

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Devil

      Australia to float 'not backdoors'

      Meanwhile Mayhem in her ferro-cement equine storage facility wants to tear up many human rights provisions.

      Like not actually being locked up or deported without a trial. Look how well Internment worked from Boer War to 1970s N.I.?

      This is stuff that deserves to sink.

      1. Yes Me Silver badge
        Go

        Mayhem and human rights

        Meanwhile Mayhem in her ferro-cement equine storage facility wants to tear up many human rights provisions.

        If you're in the UK you still have time to help vote her out.

  3. Winkypop Silver badge
    FAIL

    If Brandis is in charge of this, then...

    ...prepare for Peak Derp!

    Not looking, just interested because we love you.

  4. Frumious Bandersnatch Silver badge

    Marmite In The Middle

    Trust the Antipodeans to support this sort of thing.

    Oh, wait. I think I was confusing it with Vegemite.

  5. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    Quandry in the making....

    If Donald Trump comes out as pro-encryption (I bet he used it all the time), that's definitely going to leave me with mixed emotions.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Quandry in the making....

      I'd imagine his previous tax returns are currently protected by encryption.

      So...

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Quandry in the making....

      Given his 'tough guy' stance on terrorism and crime, and his calls for boycotting Apple over their refusal to help the FBI break into the San Bernadino terrorist's phone, I don't think you have to worry about finding yourself in such a quandry.

      Pretty sure if he'd back May's stance 100%, and probably claim she isn't going far enough.

    3. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      Re: Quandry in the making....

      "If Donald Trump comes out as pro-encryption (I bet he used it all the time) ... "

      Judging by his tweets you are oh so correct.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Quandry in the making....

        Maybe covfefe is his encryption key he typed into a tweet by mistake?

  6. Notas Badoff
    Stop

    WTF

    "From time to time we do expect our privacy to be breached, ..."

    It quite boggles the mind that anyone in a 'free' 'democracy' can say this. That they do is the result of a process apparently not sufficiently remarked upon.

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      Re: WTF

      Indeed. In fact, no I don't, because I'm not a criminal and I wouldn't appreciate being treated like one.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Gimp

        "because I'm not a criminal and I wouldn't appreciate being treated like one."

        And yet that's exactly how all pervasive surveillance treats everyone.

        "Give me 6 lines from an honest man and I'll find something with which to hang him."

        The enemy of data fetishists are not terrorists, drug dealers, paedophiles or money launders.

        It's us.

        Anyone who wants to keep any part of their private life private, without any evidence that we are committing (or planning to commit) a crime.

        It's not a sane, rational policy. It's a delusional mental illness. In a rational democratic society it would be treated as such.

  7. Piro

    What happens if terrorists simply flood the internet with tons of false leads, using botnets? "Intelligence" services would be absolutely overwhelmed, and the whole idea of finding terrorists online would be finished.

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      It would then be the 'duty' of every terrorist to encrypt passages from their favourite book and post them on Facebook, etc at regular intervals.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Hint: Large books are best.

    2. Walter Bishop Silver badge
      Big Brother

      The whole idea of finding terrorists online

      @Piro: 'What happens if terrorists simply flood the internet with tons of false leads, using botnets? "Intelligence" services would be absolutely overwhelmed, and the whole idea of finding terrorists online would be finished.'

      “Five Eyes” already have the capability to access your encrypted communications. It's not about catching the terrorists but about suppressing political dissent because a watched population is a compliant one.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: The whole idea of finding terrorists online

        “Five Eyes” already have the capability to access your encrypted communications

        Yes, but if the encryption's done right then all they get is encrypted.

    3. hplasm Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      "What happens if..."

      Pretty much the same as now, then.

    4. P. Lee Silver badge

      >What happens if terrorists simply flood the internet with tons of false leads, using botnets?

      What happens when terrorists talk to their buddies at the local mosque or at picnic in the park?

      Just because middle-class millenials are obsessed with internet services doesn't mean everyone is. How many of the recent attacks required any internet usage?

      Go buy a gun or a knife and stab/shoot someone. Rent an Avis van and drive into a crowd. No WhatsApp required. No email trail. No iTunes purchase of "The Dummies Guide to Terrorism" epub.

      1. Piro

        Re: >What happens if terrorists simply flood the internet with tons of false leads, using botnets?

        No-ones saying they necessarily co-ordinate online other than Theresa May; I'm simply pointing out how pointless this effort could be.

  8. petef
    Coat

    Will it work against uoıʇdʎɹɔuǝ uɐıʃɐɹʇsn∀?

    1. TitterYeNot
      Coat

      "Will it work against uoıʇdʎɹɔuǝ uɐıʃɐɹʇsn∀?"

      Encryption is not necessary for Australian english. Even in plaintext it's indecipherable...

      "Just this arvo I was havin' a durry on the dunny, sat there with me grundies around me ankles, when I clocked this great big redback. Me mouth went as dry as a dead dingo's donger, and me clacker shut faster than a possum up a gumtree!"

      1. TSG

        Can we get a usable translation for that? I'm pretty sure no machine or human will be able to break that.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who's the real target?

    If you can hack the phone, you can hack the plaintext and don't need to hack any message-embedded encryption to read the messages. This is not rocket science.

    Governments in general already have all the legislation required to hack phones of nominated terrorist suspects or persons alleged to be committing serious crimes - through processes that form part of the criminal justice system.

    So here's a question from Puzzled Public: who in the world might be targeted by such proposed legislation?

    Answers on a postcard.

    Never mind, there's a party-political-neutral solution to all such proposals. As and when they become law, just use the same backdoors to hack Gorgeous George and all other politicians voting for the backdoors, then publish their little affairs, peccadillos and embarrassments. This technique already has been prototyped in the US Congress. Amazing how instantly hardliner pro-surveillance politicians flip to anti-surveillance. Unkind people might say they suddenly realize there are unintended consequences to making laws supposedly aimed at other people.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Who's the real target?

      "Governments in general already have all the legislation required to hack phones of nominated terrorist suspects or persons alleged to be committing serious crimes - through processes that form part of the criminal justice system."

      Citation needed.

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "just use the same backdoors to hack Gorgeous George and all other politicians "

    And that's the point.

    Legally mandated government approved back doors will be the outstanding mega target for every Black hat and any White hat (in countries where reverse engineering it is not declared illegal) on the planet.

    Upton Sinclair (the guy who wrote the book on which the film "Oil" is based, and whose election campaign in California after WWII was run by a "RA Heinlein") wrote "No mans ignorance is so great as a man whose livelihood depends on his ignorance"

    There's a lot of people vested in this idea, despite all evidence that the idea will not make the population these people are allegedly protecting any safer and is in fact very stupid.

  11. leon clarke

    Too much of this debate fails to distinguish between what's allowed and what's possible

    If the police have an appropriate warrant, they are allowed to break down your front door and search your house. However, you are allowed to buy up a second hand nuclear shelter, restore it (including the blast doors) and live in it. Were you to do such a thing (either because you're eccentric or because you have something to hide), a standard issue police battering ram wouldn't have very little impact. So the comparison should not be with search warrants, but on the restrictions on selling really strong doors (of which none exist anywhere in the world as far as I'm aware)

    Of course, whatsapp is cheaper, more convenient and practical for more of the population than living in a nuclear bunker, but the distinction still needs to be made.

  12. rndSheeple

    Pointless blather from pointless ID-10-T politicians. I can have a WhatsApp discussion in a group with 20 people for years until the day I state "the strawberries are excellent this time of year in Suffolk" and those willing to do whatever was agreed upon respond with "yeah going to the market Saturday in xxxxLocation".

    No one gives a flying F whether or not the discussions are listened to by whomever.

    Similarly I can encrypt of course any instructions say the anarcheologists cookbook with DDV-25 encryption whereupon the whole thing is just xored with Debbie does Vegas 25 years anniversary edition dvd from 05:39. Uncrackable.

    My point is just that these "measures" do nothing but allow the regime in Iran, UK or any other oppressive such, to see into all messaging. They certainly know they won't catch the real ones who actually work on this.

    Like the paris event chaps used burner phones to send a single message then toss it if I recall correctly.

    So yes, this should be shot down, and instead focus on something real.

    I agree with earlier posters that the politicians should themselves opensource all their messaging.... Just to show that normal citizens have nothing to hide?

    Unless of course the elite is above all this.

  13. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    A reminder on perspective.

    From after 7/7/05 (57 dead, including the perpetrators and one South American electrician shot by mistake) to date the UK has had an additional 36 deaths due to terrrorism

    That's 3 deaths a year.

    " 529,655 deaths registered in England and Wales in 2015,"

    UK Office of National Statistics.

    So an increase of 5.66 x 10^-4 %. IOW it's in the ppm range of increase in the annual number of deaths.

    Or (all 36) is about 4 hrs of smoking related deaths in UK NHS hospitals.

    Or as Mary Shaefer (a former NASA flight test engineer who saw a lot of test pilots fly, and die through several decades) after 9/11/01 put it "Insisting on perfect safety is for people who don't have the balls to live in the real world."

    16 years later that's still true.

    Is this a cost effective use of the Bns of £/A$/C$/$ all these governments seem hell bent on spending?

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      Re: A reminder on perspective.

      There is the "death circumstances factor" which heavily weights on fear that supposedly is projected in the society by each particular death. For example, an individual death in the hospital bed has much less impact on the society than a tragic accident on a street, again than a (half ?) crazied man shouting "for Allah!" and killing bystanders on another street.

      Personally I'd prefer if both politicians and media stopped playing on this and instead focused on the most preventable deaths (looking at hospital care, car accidents and living habits) rather than the most "feared" ones. I am NOT suggesting that we should regulate everything because as a society we cannot tolerate even single death, but rather that hot-headed response will ultimately lead to waste of resources, and will indirectly contribute to MORE deaths elsewhere (because the money has been spent on spying, rather than health care etc.)

    2. Tinslave_the_Barelegged Silver badge

      Re: A reminder on perspective.

      > Is this a cost effective use of the Bns of £/A$/C$/$ all these governments

      > seem hell bent on spending?

      Good point - so now we know - the "necessary hashtags" actually means "column not wide enough" in a spreadsheet of backhanders to the usual military industrial suspects.

    3. My Alter Ego

      Re: A reminder on perspective.

      Using context isn't allowed. It's unfair...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Surely it's just as simple for anyone (sufficiently motivated to keep their communications private) to send messages in apparent plain text - using a one time pad system? Good luck with monitoring the content of those messages in real time....

  15. Rob Crawford

    As realistic as Dropbears and JAckaroos

    So is it rude to ask how the Great Australian Firewall succeeded ?

    Oh wait whats that it was useless wasn't it

  16. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    What is needed is an international effort to get legislation passed guaranteeing ruinous monetary penalties should the Back Door Key fall into the hands of unauthorized people.

    Yes your bank account was raped by Chechnyans using a key pulled from a government laptop left on a train, but now you are a multi-millionaire.

    Gotta dream.

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