IBM Levels Criticism Towards Australia’s Anti-Security Laws

The effort to repeal Australia’s anti-encryption law got a major boost. IBM has come out against the heavily criticized laws.

We’ve seen a lot of developments in the movement to kill effective security around the world. Whether it is ISPs trying to kill DoH encryption so they can send targeted advertisements to their customers or the Trump administration trying to ban all effective security solutions in an effort to conduct a war on Facebook, services implementing effective security has been under considerable pressure in the last few years.

Some might be curious to know where this latest movement started. While it may be difficult to pinpoint the exact flashpoint that kicked off this latest war on security, it really heated up when Australia passed their anti-encryption laws in December of 2018. The move was backed by the intelligence community who have been pushing to kill effective security for civilians for quite some time now.

After the passage, Australia’s effort to kill effective security ultimately became a warning to other countries of what not to do on this file. The nearly universally condemned laws sparked a mass innovation and investment exodus in the country. While the harm done to the country is seemingly immeasurable, both on an economic and reputational standpoint, the government wound up being undeterred by all the damage they were causing to themselves. They ended up using the anti-encryption laws to initiate a crackdown on journalists in the country, a move that was condemned by Reporters Without Borders.

Now, it seems that IBM is issuing what is being reported as a “rare” criticism of the Australian government. The computer giant is saying that they are urging the Australian government to review their anti-security laws because of all the damage it is causing to the country. From IT News Australia:

In a submission to Home Affairs’ 2020 cyber security strategy consultation [pdf], IBM said the Telecommunications (Assistance and Access) Act 2018 had “created concerns about Australia’s ability and commitment to embrace the most effective cybersecurity policies and technologies.”

In particular, IBM said the laws had “undermined” previous work by the government to create a “regulatory environment that promotes strong cybersecurity without constraining innovation or digital commerce.”

“Strong encryption represents a critically important cyber security technology,” IBM Australia said.

“It underpins data security identity management and protection of devices against unauthorised access. It also plays a crucial role in defending critical infrastructure systems.

“Security experts around the world recognize that empowering law enforcement agencies to build technology to counter encryption will result in a weakening of the encryption technology in use.”

IBM specifically criticised the existence of Technical Assistance Notices, which compel providers with an “existing means to decrypt” communications to use it to aid law enforcement.

The vendor urged a review of the notice regime.

The article continues to quote IBM as saying that the government needs to review the provisions in the Act and clarify positions that are causing all this harm to the country.

While these laws are, for some, fading into the outreaches of distant memory, this really is ground zero for the anti-security movement at large. Not content with just wrecking Australia, many in the movement have set their eyes on the entire planet, trying to push governments to follow suit in their own countries as well. It was only last October that Germany joined the US, Australia, and the UK in trying to kill Facebook encryption as well. The US has even began contemplating banning all effective security (dubbed “warrant-proof” by the movements biggest boosters) as well.

Probably the only fortunate thing in all of this is the fact that we have the benefit of looking to Australia to get an idea of the consequences of destroying effective security. It goes far beyond just removing a single form of encryption. We’ve seen innovation and investment go racing to the exits, the reputation that the country is no place to securely store your information in any capacity, and the breakdown of basic democratic values such as freedom of speech, what rights to privacy we have left, and even freedom of the press to name a few. It’s easy to underestimate the significance security has on every day lives, but take away a core pillar to a modern world and it’s actually amazing just how much things fall apart.

It’s unclear what effect IBMs comments will have on the government. This given the fact that the Australian government has, so far, remained stubborn when faced with the facts and reality of their position. Still, with a corporation as large as IBM voicing their concerns, there is hope that the government will start having second thoughts on the direction they are taking the country.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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