Australia believes it is 'technically possible' to crack end-to-end encryption

Mathematics be damned, the UK has told Australia it is possible to break encryption in real time.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

Australia will introduce draft legislation that will attempt to force technology companies to break into end-to-end encrypted messages by the end of the year.

Speaking to the ABC on Friday morning, Australian Attorney-General George Brandis said he has been informed by the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) intelligence agency that the government's plan to bust encrypted messages is possible.

"Last Wednesday, I met with the chief cryptographer at GCHQ ... and he assured me this was feasible," he said.

"What the government is proposing to do is to impose upon the companies an obligation conditioned by reasonableness and proportionality."

Brandis said that if the companies that are compelled by these laws disagree, then he will see them in court.

"What this merely does is contemporise for the modern era what is a well-established legal principle -- that is, persons including companies can be subject to an obligation to assist law enforcement in resolving crimes, and that principle shouldn't depend upon the nature of the technology; it applies to all communications."

Brandis also stated that he believes the process of breaking into end-to-end encrypted messages can be done in almost real time, since, once again, GCHQ has told him it is possible.

As well as forcing companies to break into encrypted messages, the legislation will also give intelligence agencies stronger powers to remotely conduct surveillance on the phones of jihadis and child abusers.

"We cannot allow the internet to be used as a place for terrorists and child molesters and people who peddle child pornography and drug traffickers to hide in the dark," Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told the Seven Network on Friday.

"Those dark places online must be illuminated by the law."

Turnbull insisted that the government is not giving intelligence agencies "back doors or anything underhand".

More than half of the investigations carried out by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) now involve encrypted communications, compared to 3 percent four years ago.

"This will be a universal phenomenon in a very short time," Brandis told Sky News.

Cabinet Minister Christopher Pyne is not expecting a fight from the tech giants.

"I think if [companies] do try and fight the government trying to protect Australians, they'll be on the wrong side of the argument," he told Nine Network.

Over recent weeks, Australia has been leading the charge to thwart the use of encryption by terrorists.

In the same week, authorities in Germany had their hacking powers increased thanks to the passing of a new law that permits the greater use of malware to allow for the tapping of a person's device.

In Germany, the authorities' hacking tools are widely known as Staatstrojanern, or state trojans. According to the government, the spread of encrypted communications makes traditional wiretapping impossible, so the authorities need to be able to bypass encryption by directly hacking into the communications device.

With AAP

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