South Australia reportedly drafting laws to force passwords out of suspects

Suspected criminals will have to reveal their computer passwords to police under proposed new child protection laws in South Australia.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

The South Australian government is drafting laws that will force some suspected criminals to hand over passwords to police.

State Attorney-General John Rau said the new laws will help police and the courts investigate and prosecute offences involving child exploitation material -- admitting advances in technology mean police are increasingly unable to access incriminating material.

According to the Adelaide Advertiser, it is "anticipated" the draft laws would be used in "serious and organised crime investigations".

South Australia currently has no general legislation to make offenders give password access to encrypted material.

"It is crucial that the criminal law keeps pace with changes in society and new ways of offending," Rau said.

"The reforms proposed by the government are a response to technological advances and the new way in which crimes, especially the sexual exploitation and abuse of children, are being committed."

The proposed bill will also target those who operate child exploitation websites without actual possession of exploitative material, closing a loophole in the existing legislation, and will see offenders will face a maximum 10-year jail sentence.

In recent weeks, Australia has made the running for the Five Eyes nations -- the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand -- on the topic of encryption and the problems it poses for law enforcement.

Earlier this month, Commonwealth Attorney-General George Brandis said draft legislation was being written to compel technology companies to turn over the content of end-to-end encrypted messages by the end of the year.

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

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

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

This was followed by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull telling ZDNet that the laws produced in Canberra are able to trump the laws of mathematics.

"The laws of Australia prevail in Australia, I can assure you of that," he said. "The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia."

With AAP

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