What Is the Assistance and Access Bill

The Australian government, with the support of Labor, came to an “in-principle” agreement on the controversial laws forcing companies to add backdoors to encryption technologies.

The infamous anti-encryption bill passed into law by 44 votes to 12 in the Senate, with Labor and the Coalition voting for it.

The legislation, known as the Assistance and Access bill, will be the world’s first law forcing companies to add backdoors to their secured technologies. The government said it’s in a rush to pass the Anti-Encryption Bill due to the upcoming holiday season when the risk of terrorist attacks is higher.

Why We’re Worried

Although those who voted to pass the law justify it by allegedly increasing people’s security and protecting them from potential dangers from terrorists seems like the officials don’t really understand encryption.

We remember how the Australian Data Retention Law was also introduced to catch terrorists, but turned out to be a massive breach in privacy, because an increasing number of agencies have been requesting access to your metadata without any warrant. Starting from Clean energy regulators, Harness Racing to Taxi Services Commission, etc. None of them has anything to do with protecting you from terrorism.

If the encryption has backdoors, anyone can find a way in. Either it’s marketers, the government or criminals.

Technologists can’t build an access system that only works for certain people – if you break into one place, it’s broken everywhere. If the FBI can snoop on your personal activities online, so does the government or criminals, or anyone who manages to find the vulnerabilities.

Bruce Schneier, an American cryptographer, and computer security professional says the risk is not just theoretical. For example, Google kept a database of backdoor accesses provided to the US government, the Chinese breached it in 2009.

“We’re not being asked to choose between security and privacy. We’re being asked to choose between less security and more security.”, – adds Schneier.

Criminals break in national security databases, which are usually protected using military grade technologies. Without even having a clue there are backdoors to get in. Their job gets much more comfortable if they know that these vulnerabilities exist.

Another concern is – who will guard the guards? It’s known that the Australian government wants to hire average IT workers to handle the encryption business and work as spies. We doubt they are qualified enough to keep the backdoors safe.

Trouble for Business

The new bill can also mean, that some of the tech giants will refuse to work with the government, and decide to blacklist the Australian market.

For all those Apple fans – this bill may force the company to pull out of the Australian market. Apple already submitted a formal response to the government urging not to weaken encryption adding backdoors earlier in October. The iPhone maker called the lawmakers to make encryption stronger, not weaker.

On top of that, prominent Australian startups can face serious problems. Especially, if they’re doing business with the European Union, because backdoored software isn’t compatible with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

The Assistance and Access bill can severely damage the VPN market in Australia. All of the trustworthy providers try to engineer technologies without any cracks in their service.

Companies order independent audits – to test their product and make it as robust as possible. There’s no point of a vulnerable VPN. Recently, we got audited and recognized for our robust safety. And we vow to keep our VPN this way.