Sweeping Cyber Laws Down Under

Tuesday, December 4, 2018 @ 06:12 PM gHale

While the United States has appeared to be reticent in passing any profound cybersecurity legislation, Australia’s two main parties struck a deal this week to pass sweeping cyber laws.

The new Aussie law requires tech giants to help government agencies get around encrypted communications used by suspected criminals and terrorists.

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The laws are urgently needed to investigate serious crimes like terrorism and child sex offenses, the conservative government said, citing a recent case involving three men accused of plotting attacks who used encrypted messaging applications.

But critics including Google and Facebook as well as privacy advocates warn the laws would weaken cybersecurity and be among the most far-reaching in a Western democracy.

The bill is expected to pass parliament by Thursday, which is the end of the sitting week.

The opposition Labor party said the ruling Liberal-National coalition had addressed some of its concerns by agreeing to improve oversight and accountability, and beef up safeguards in the proposed bill.

Law enforcement agencies urgently need the measures to stop terror suspects and others from hiding their activities, the government said.

Under the planned laws, Canberra could compel local and international providers to remove electronic protections, conceal covert operations by government agencies, and help with access to devices or services.

If companies did not comply, they would face multi-million-dollar fines, the government said in August. Government requests could still be challenged in court.

The government has said it is not asking tech firms to build in backdoors to access people’s data.

But the Digital Industry Group Inc (DIGI) — which represents major players such as Twitter and Amazon — said in a submission to parliament last week the bill as it is currently written would force them to create vulnerabilities in their operations which could be exploited by hackers.

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