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Australia wants tech companies to let cops 'n' snoops see messages without backdoors

Details on how to see stuff when providers don't have keys coming soon, promise

By Richard Chirgwin

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The Australian government will press ahead with its not-a-backdoor anti-encryption plans and hinted that collaboration with tech companies is its approach to accessing encrypted messages.

The latest attempt to pitch the counter-terrorism legislation came from Angus Taylor, the government's Minister for Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity, speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation today.

Taylor said warrants that give access to communications in the analogue world should be extended to the digital world, but without backdoors

“There's been ideas around for decades that you should create some kind of key that law enforcement can get access to … that's not what we're proposing … we want networks to be more secure, not less secure.”

“What a backdoor is, creating a new weakness, a systemic weakness in a security system … the tech service providers don't want that, we don't want that, and it's not what the legislation is about.”

“We need to collaborate with the telcos and the tech service providers”, he added.

Taylor emphasised "law enforcement access" to messages, rather than decryption, and updating laws "to get access to information for holding criminals and terrorists to account, for investigations, and gathering evidence."

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Saying current interception laws were developed for an “analogue” era, Taylor said current laws are “now out of date, because much data is transferred through messaging apps, it's digital, not analogue … we need to update the powers.”

Taylor promised the government is “working very hard” to “get the balance right”, so as to avoid exposing Australians to vulnerabilities.

However, he said, law enforcement needs access to the “data they need”, and added that he wouldn't go into the technical details.

“There'll be more talk about the technical detail as we introduce the legislation”, and said tech providers need to “give access, where that's possible, without creating the new weaknesses”.

“There's all sorts of ways where law enforcement agencies can access the data”, he said.

“Unfortunately in a modern world with smartphones and messaging apps, those powers are no longer what they were and we have to extend them into a digital era.”

The Reg awaits details of how Australia will pull this off with considerable interest. ®

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