Tuesday, 14 August 2018 07:31

Telcos, Internet firms face $10m fines under new cyber law Featured

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Angus Taylor: "We must ensure our laws reflect the rapid take-up of secure online communications by those who seek to do us harm." Angus Taylor: "We must ensure our laws reflect the rapid take-up of secure online communications by those who seek to do us harm." Supplied

Telecommunications and Internet companies and makers of digital devices will face fines of up to $10 million if they do not help law enforcement agencies gain access to data needed for investigating terrorism offences, according to a new draft law revealed on Tuesday. Individuals will face fines of up to $50,000.

The Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018, that was released this morning for public comment, does not make it necessary for companies to weaken encryption.

In a statement, Law Enforcement and Cyber Security Minister Angus Taylor said: “These reforms will allow law enforcement and interception agencies to access specific communications without compromising the security of a network.

"The measures expressly prevent the weakening of encryption or the introduction of so-called backdoors.

“I am committed to maintaining the integrity of Australians’ personal information, devices and communications.

“Our first priority is keeping Australians safe and these measures will go a long way to ensure that criminals cannot hide.”

Companies will be initially requested to co-operate with law enforcement; if they do not, the pressure will be stepped up to force them to help.

First, there will be a “technical assistance request” that allows voluntary help by a company. The staff of the company will be given civil immunity from prosecution.

Next, an interception agency can issue a “technical assistance notice” to make a communications provider offer assistance.

Finally, a “technical capability notice” can be issued by the Attorney-General at the request of an interception agency. This will force a company to help law enforcement, by building functionality.

However it cannot include the decryption of information or removal of electronic protection in any system.

The government has invited feedback on the draft bill which can be sent to assistancebill.consultation@homeaffairs.gov.au by 10 September. 

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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