Pirate Party defends encryption from government interference

In the wake of the Melbourne terror incident and the terror attacks in London and Manchester the Federal government is attempting to shift some of the blame for the actions of the terrorists in these latest attacks on to large Internet companies and the encryption technology which keeps us all safe online.

Pirate Party Australia opposes any weakening of encryption because it will be ineffective, it will harm the privacy of ordinary citizens and it will make it easier for private data to be stolen by hackers, both criminal and state sponsored.

The Internet relies on functioning encryption to protect users from attack. It is estimated that in 2016 ‘cybercrime’ increased by 30% and cost the Australian economy three billion dollars.[1] Every time a vulnerability is created, such as allowing intelligence agencies to access private communications, it creates another vector for attacks to occur.

“Security online is weak enough without the government pushing to make it weaker,” said Simon Frew, President of Pirate Party Australia. “Any vulnerability created for intelligence agencies is a vulnerability for people with more nefarious intentions. A good example of this occurred last year when security experts published a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows Secure Boot, a system that is designed to protect systems from hacking. Microsoft included a workaround so developers could test systems without needing to validate the software. This was used to install malware that Secure Boot was specifically designed to stop[2]. With such benign work arounds being exploited for malware, breaking end-to-end encryption would be a disaster in the making.”

“This is the beginning of the next round of ‘crypto wars’ between the government and private citizens. With each new power granted to spies and law enforcement agencies, people concerned with their privacy take new measures to protect themselves from the government,” Mr Frew continued. “Forcing social media giants to employ backdoors in their messaging services will just lead to other platforms being adopted and those who wish to communicate anonymously will continue to do so. Those without technical knowhow to work around broken encryption will be at greater risk.”

“Private communications are vital for an open society. When citizens believe they are under constant surveillance, they self-censor and this creates a chilling effect. Legitimate criticisms of government policy may not be aired and our democracy suffers as a result. This is also a risk to the economy, with businesses relying on encryption to securely do business, weakening encryption puts businesses at significant risk. We call upon the government to abandon its misguided plans to weaken encryption and instead suggest more investment in police resources to manage the known terrorist threats. Increasing the size of the data haystack collected by mass surveillance isn’t working, it has turned everyone into a suspect and eroded the presumption of innocence.” Simon concluded.

[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-19/cybercrime,-online-scamming-of-business-up-30pc:-accc/8537992
[2] https://www.wired.com/2016/08/microsoft-secure-boot-hack

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