Friday, 15 September 2017 06:20

Controversial telco security reforms pass parliament Featured

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Controversial changes to laws aimed at controlling threats of spying, foreign interference and sabotage in the telecommunications sector have been passed by the Australian parliament.

Telcos will now be forced to tell the government about changes to systems and services that could make them more vulnerable to security risks.

The legislation will be reviewed in three years.

In a joint statement, Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said the bill "establishes a framework to better manage national security threats to the telecommunications sector, and obliges carriers and carriage service providers to do their best to protect their networks from unauthorised access and interference".

They added that the Critical Infrastructure Centre within the Attorney-General’s department would work with industry to implement the reforms over 12 months.

The bipartisan Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security reviewed the Bill and handed down its report on 30 June, they said, adding that the government had accepted all the committee’s recommendations.

Earlier this year, industry organisations had expressed reservations about the changes, warning that they could have the opposite effect from that effect.

The Australian Industry Group, the Australian Information Industry Association, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association and Communications Alliance expressed their concerns with the legislation in a joint submission to the committee.

The joint submission stated that some of the issues were vague drafting, regulatory overreach, the risk that telecommunications service providers could be forced by government to dismantle or retro-fit existing communications networks and the risk that innovation would be hampered and competitively disadvantage businesses.

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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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