If you’ve been paying attention to #auspol, you’ll be aware there are now new rules dictating what information national security agencies can demand Australian telecommunications companies grant them access to.
The bill, which passed both houses of parliament just over a week ago, is called the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018. It is also known informally as the “Access All Areas Bill”.
The complex piece of legislation made its way through parliament very quickly. Many argue that the federal ministers involved in passing it were likely unable to wrap their heads around the issue before voting, let alone members of the public who are less well versed in tech jargon.
The government claims the bill is to stop serious criminals – like paedophiles and terrorists – from benefiting from encryption and telecommunication services. But, assuming you’re neither of those things, how will the Access All Areas Bill affect you?
There are sections of the bill stipulating it will only be used in serious criminal cases, so whether your neighbourhood drug-dealer or favourite snap-chat premium account will be pass the importance threshold remains to be seen.
But, cybersecurity is about more than just the messages we send to one another.
Lizzie O’Shea, a lawyer and board member for the Digital Rights Watch, is more concerned with how this kind of legislation will affect the security of the online services we use every day.
“It asks companies for ways to break encryption into their systems,” O’Shea told Dreamland Magazine.
“You might do that for a good purpose, but it allows people to use it for the wrong reasons. Essentially, anybody who can access it can use it for any purpose.”
Encryption isn’t just used for social media messages services, either.
Online banking, digital health records and even our power grids rely on encrypted communications to run securely.
O’Shea said cybercriminals have used the backdoors the government is demanding be created to “wreak havoc” on digital infrastructure in the past.
Effectively, this bill that was designed to make us safer could lead to a severe level of increased vulnerability.
Tech companies, cryptographers and digital rights watchdogs are all opposed to the bill.
O’Shea believes the only people backing the bill are the people who stand to gain power from it, like national security agencies, intelligence and law enforcement.
“We’re seeing a real failure of democracy,” she said.