Feeds

Secret forum reveals Oz firewall backroom dealing

Circumvention legal, but you can't tell anyone how

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Australia’s plans for a firewall to protect its population from smut on the internet are rapidly evolving from farce to total chaos. Weekly revelations on bulletin boards suggest that Stephen Conroy, the man behind the big idea, does not know what forthcoming legislation on the topic will say, when it will be introduced or how the firewall will work in practice.

Meanwhile, it turns out that the Minister’s own Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) has been hosting a secret forum for discussions with ISPs likely to be affected by proposals. Along the way it floated the idea of making it a crime to advise surfers on how to do things that are perfectly legal to do. Confused? You will be.

First up is the time scale for plans to introduce the new firewall. As already reported, the question of when legislation will be introduced has now been bouncing between the offices of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy. Severe wriggling from Conroy’s office suggests that plans for an early introduction of legislation have been put on the back burner for now.

As if one embarrassment were not enough, at the end of April, Electronic Frontiers Australia (EFA) revealed that it had in its possession screenshots of a secret forum hosting discussions between the Department of Communications and various ISPs.

Despite assurances from Conroy in December 2009 that legislation would be before the Australian parliament by March of this year, one post on the forum from mid-April acknowledged that the Department had not yet assembled even draft legislation.

Meanwhile further digging inside this forum revealed that departmental officials appear to have been discussing the possibility of making it a criminal offence to advise individuals of means that would enable them to circumvent the filter – even where the means themselves were perfectly legal.

This last revelation proved too much for the Australian Pirate Party, which weighed into the debate shortly after, accusing the government of hosting plans that would be at home with oppressive regimes such as Iran or China.

A spokesman for the Pirate Party said: "What is concerning ... is that the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE)] have considered making the promotion of circumvention somehow illegal.

"If circumvention will not be illegal, then how can it be illegal to simply tell people how to circumvent the government-controlled infrastructure in order to secure access to information that the Australian Government may deem inappropriate."

Such an offence, according to the Pirate Party would mean "effectively silencing political debate" in Australia.

However, in an apparent attempt to stop the rot, the Department of Communications last Monday finally provided answers to a string of questions on the working of the firewall previously put to it by Green Senator, Scott Ludlam.

In yet another apparent volte-face, the department now claims that it would be perfectly legal for customers to adopt circumvention techniques. Its response further reveals that the Minister is well aware of the efficacy of such techniques, prompting speculation that he is actually far better informed than his public pronouncements suggest: that he knows the firewall will be of minimal effectiveness, and therefore his pursuit of this project is motivated more by populist politics than a desire to find a practical solution.

Most ominous of all for the theoretical firewall is a departmental admission that the government will put in hand a "technical review" if ever the filter hits the 10,000 URL mark and starts to creak under the strain.

As the EFA suggests, this answer raises more issues than it addresses, and relies on the degradation of the Australian network being gradual, rather than catastrophic. It does appear, however, that the government has no plans to deal with a possible overload of its firewall bringing the Australian internet to its knees – beyond setting up a review when such an event actually happens.

By then, of course, it could all be far too late. ®

Security for virtualized datacentres

More from The Register

next story
TEEN RAMPAGE: Kids in iPhone 6 'Will it bend' YouTube 'prank'
iPhones bent in Norwich? As if the place wasn't weird enough
Consumers agree to give up first-born child for free Wi-Fi – survey
This Herod network's ace – but crap reception in bullrushes
Crouching tiger, FAST ASLEEP dragon: Smugglers can't shift iPhone 6s
China's grey market reports 'sluggish' sales of Apple mobe
Sea-Me-We 5 construction starts
New sub cable to go live 2016
New EU digi-commish struggles with concepts of net neutrality
Oettinger all about the infrastructure – but not big on substance
PEAK IPV4? Global IPv6 traffic is growing, DDoS dying, says Akamai
First time the cache network has seen drop in use of 32-bit-wide IP addresses
EE coughs to BROKEN data usage metrics BLUNDER that short-changes customers
Carrier apologises for 'inflated' measurements cockup
Comcast: Help, help, FCC. Netflix and pals are EXTORTIONISTS
The others guys are being mean so therefore ... monopoly all good, yeah?
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.