Analysis: Australia’s Proposed Cybersecurity Bill & Its Implications for Privacy

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Australian security system.
Australia has proposed a new bill that will give authorities more power to conduct stealthy surveillance activities on electronics.

The past few years have seen a rising trend in Australian dark web usage.

Reports and news articles indicate that thousands of Australians have been cutting illegal deals over darknet spaces in recent years.

Moreover, Australia has been facing an online privacy quagmire with a barrage of legislation targeting cybersecurity and law enforcement issues.

An example is the 2015 Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment (Data Retention) Act that sent Australian internet into panic.

Suddenly, users were forced to adjust to the new IT environment by taking critical steps to protect their privacy.

In the latest development, the Australian government has thrown another punch—the Assistance and Access Bill 2018 on cybersecurity.

Your TOR usage is being watched

An Aggressive Cybersecurity Proposal

The proposal seeks to grant Australian authorities clear powers to carry out stealthy surveillance activities on electronic devices and prompt tech organizations to cooperate in decrypting private communications.

The minister in charge of Australian cybersecurity, Angus Taylor, issued an exposure draft of the proposed legislation that would obligate multinational tech companies such as Facebook, Google and Apple to join the Australian government in fulfilling its surveillance objectives.

The news comes in the wake of recent Australian encounters with darknet-related challenges stemming from information encryption and the irresponsible use of online privacy tools.

Taylor reiterated on the government’s call to tame Australian cyberspace by noting statistics indicating that more than 90 percent of police-intercepted data was encrypted.

In the same breath, he stated that the same encrypted forms of data were directly associated to hundreds of serious infringements of the law over the past year.

Quite obviously, a big chunk of these numbers can be reflected on the country’s dark web use.

Taylor’s comments echoed the government’s need to adjust to the highly dynamic secure internet environment that has been witnessed globally.

The Details: What Are the Main Provisions of the Bill?

The proposed legislation will make some additions to already-existing interventions meant to safeguard Australian cybersecurity.

Under this function, the interception of telecommunications will be controlled by particular intercepting agencies and the director general of security.

Cybersecurity book for cybersecurity law.
While this scenario may seem to be a classic example of legislative overreach, darknet activities will be effectively policed in case the bill becomes law.

The issuing of warrants will follow specific directives from the two aforementioned chiefs to issue technical assistance notices to relevant organizations for decryption to take place.

The notice will serve a company with information about the relevance and technicality of mining such data.

In this aspect, for example, a company will be enlightened on valid reasons for them to issue encryption keys or any further access to devices.

Additionally, assistance denotes the erasure of any existing electronic protection measures to the satisfaction of the relevant information interception agency.

This provision extends to the need for companies to be ready to surrender technical information concerning electronic design aspects and service characteristics to aid an investigation.

In the case of end-to-end encryption, which is popular among dark web netizens, users will still enjoy some degree of protection from police-sponsored data seizure.

However, still, the attorney general bears the power to serve a communications service provider with a “technical capability notice” to assist interception agencies in their work.

At first glance, one may be quick to criticize the bill for delving too deep in its business of data surveillance.

It is critical to note the explicitness of the proposal in regulating the new powers to prevent a scenario where communications providers create unnecessary infrastructural privacy weaknesses.

In a nutshell, the new kind of “computer access warrant” has been incorporated in the bill to permit covert surveillance following approval by a judicial officer.

Warrants would permit law enforcement officers to confiscate electronic devices and copy data without full knowledge of their owners.

While this scenario may seem to be a classic example of legislative overreach, darknet activities will be effectively policed in case the bill becomes law.

This follows the fact that the dark web depends heavily on encryption techniques such as those which typify Tor usage.

Border Control: Leaving or Entering Australia

Two passports and electronic devices.
Australian Law, under section 186 of the Customs Act, informs travelers that they will be subjected to checks accordingly.

Australia’s recent cybersecurity proposal is just a reflection of the country’s response to damning crime facts.

The latest criminological report by the Australian Institute of Criminology has revealed that the country scores highly on darknet charts.

The country’s standing on the darknet scale shows that Australia has the second highest per-capita concentration of dark web drug dealers in the world.

It is noteworthy to realize that the darknet drug business is synonymous to cybersecurity issues.

By this, fighting dark web rings translates to aggressive movements through the upper echelons of continental cybersecurity.

It is therefore not surprising to find a lot of difficulty with crossing the Australian border with electronic devices.

You may be wondering—how easy or hard is it to cross Australia with these devices?

Australian Law, under section 186 of the Customs Act, informs travelers that they will be subjected to checks accordingly.

In this regard, electronic devices may be held by border authorities for a period of no more than two weeks.

Still, this time may be stretched depending on the level of cooperation accorded by a traveler in context.

The content stored inside the devices will also direct border control officers to act in different ways.

The seizure of any electronic objects, for valid reasons, will mean that the examinations will become more thorough, including an assessment of a traveler’s itinerary and the emergence of a need to contact their next of kin.

The examination is supposed to be conducted based on several factors and considerations as arrived by the initial assessment of traveler characteristics.

Cybersecurity Best Practices: Travelling with Electronics to High-Risk Countries

Australia is included in the list of countries that are considered highly vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Certainly, the list of high risk countries as of early 2018 includes nations that demand critical consideration and preparations by travelers as provided by international cybersecurity agencies.

These countries include Russia, Israel (the West Bank and Gaza), China, Iran, Thailand, Ukraine, just to name a few.

Female hand using smartphone on plane.
It is proper that you, as the traveler, consider the need to travel with electronic objects like mobile phones.

In the context of travelling with electronics, it is important to only carry electronics that cannot be left behind.

The options vary from the most secure to those that raise little suspicion.

Generally, for all electronics, it is best to travel light.

You may choose tablets over laptop computers just in case you have to keep up with office work or any other business.

Ensure that you travel with less data to ease the process of security check up at border control points.

It is even advisable that you travel with a new computer which would only be loaded with basic data to be used during the trip.

If possible, do not travel with USB drives since they may be corrupted along the trip.

Quite obviously, you may travel without electronics for your best convenience.

It is proper that you, as the traveler, consider the need to travel with electronic objects like mobile phones. Perhaps you may not need to carry any electronic devices after all.

Cherry Pepper

Research is my comfort zone. I constantly hunger for knowledge, and believe that I bear the calling to communicate the products of my thought processes to individuals like myself. While many people believe in the adage "knowledge is power", I assert that enlightenment means life.
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