Thursday, 14 February 2019 10:42

Senetas asks govt to repeal 'demonstrably flawed' encryption law Featured

Senetas chairman Francis Galbally. Senetas chairman Francis Galbally.

Australian encryption technology company Senetas Corporation has called on the government to reconsider its encryption law, claiming that it is so demonstrably flawed that the only practical option is to withdraw it.

In a submission to the ongoing inquiry into the law — which was passed without any amendments in December last year — Senetas chairman Francis Galbally and chief executive Andrew Wilson proposed a number of changes, in the event that the government was unwilling to scrap the law altogether.

They urged the government to reconsider the law "as part of a collaborative consultation process which takes into account the views of all relevant stakeholders and persons who may be affected" by the legislation.

Galbally and Wilson said the amendments they had proposed would in no way make up for the shortcomings in the legislation.

The Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act 2018) is awaiting amendments from both the government and the Opposition.

Galbally and Wilson said the fear expressed by industry that the law would damage the reputations of Australian manufacturers and developers in international markets had been realised.

"Australian-based providers of IT products and services are now regularly fielding questions regarding the impact of the Act on their installed products and in the context of prospective sales engagements," they said. "The situation is not aided by foreign competitors making use of the media and other material to improve their competitive position."

Additionally, they said, due to the "perverse and inconsistent" definitions of what constituted a system weakness and a systemic vulnerability, the law did, in fact, allow for actual systemic weaknesses to be introduced into tech products and services.

As evidence of the damage caused to Australian companies, Galbally and Wilson said the New Zealand Government was now reconsidering its policy of allowing government agencies to use Australian-based cloud services.

They pointed out that the US tech publication Wired had named Attorney-General Christian Porter as "one of the most dangerous people on the Internet in 2018", given his role in the passage of the law.

"In commenting on his support for the legislation, Wired described the passing of the legislation as 'a dangerous development on a global scale' and places it alongside the actions of the Russian President in supporting state-sponsored murder and hacking," the two Senetas officials said.

Galbally and Wilson pointed to TPG Telecom's decision to drop its plans for a mobile network in view of the ban imposed by Australia on Chinese supplier Huawei, saying that 5G services would now be more expensive in Australia. This outcome was predicted when the Huawei ban was imposed but dismissed by the government, they pointed out.

"We raise this example not to question the decision behind the ban, but to expose the degree to which the consequences of such decisions are regularly downplayed or ignored," they said. "The commercial reality and the implications for businesses and citizens in Australia on the other hand are real and they hurt."

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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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