Turnbull Government introduces tough new terror laws focused on cyberspace

6 June 2018

Turnbull Government introduces tough new terror laws focused on cyberspace

New Australian terror laws will now force tech service providers such as Telstra, Google and Facebook to co-operate with Australian intelligence and security agencies who are seeking to gain access to the encrypted data of suspected terrorists, hackers and cyber criminals.

The tough new laws will be the most comprehensive legislative model to date, making this cyber-surveillance initiative one that will be observed by the world carefully.

The legislation, which has been drafted by the Turnbull Government, is a significant expansion of interception powers, which will compel telecommunications and technology companies to co-operate with intelligence agencies to provide access to encrypted devices, content and cloud data.

The laws, which are set to be released for public consultation in only a few weeks, ensure that companies who do not comply will face strict penalties.

The focus on cyber safety from the Australian Government was initiated during Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s visit to the G20 summit in Hamburg last year, an event at which he stated that cyberspace was a national security priority.

Limited legislation that compels companies to co-operate already exists in Britain, however Cyber Security Minister Angus Taylor, who is scheduled to meet Apple and Google in the US this week, said that the Australian model will be the most comprehensive, which he said “will be keenly watched from across the globe.”

Mr Taylor is set to deliver an address at the Sydney Institute tonight, where he will speak to alleviate the tech industry’s concerns of the requirement to create a backdoor, or hand over a “golden key” for use by law enforcement agencies.

“It’s sometimes argued that law-enforcement agencies should have privileged access to golden keys — specially stored keys they can access with a warrant — to decrypt data,” Mr Taylor will say in his address this evening.

“Companies, such as Apple, have countered this, arguing that creating backdoors is a threat to the security of their devices and systems. In the coming weeks, we’ll begin consultation on new legislation that will modernise our telecommunications intercept and search warrant powers. This legislation will not create backdoors. This government has committed to no backdoors.”

The Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Bill 2018 is believed to include three tiers designed to update and extend existing telecommunications intercept laws, including updates to search warrant and device surveillance powers for digital and encrypted devices and content which the current powers deemed to be insufficient.