Why Did Tech Giants Face $10M Fines In New Cyber Security Laws?

Following the call towards tech companies to help tackle terrorism by giving access to confidential data, the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull talked about how social media companies that provide services such as secret messaging applications may have to face the government directing law enforcement forces to open encryption.

Telcos, an internet company, and device manufacturer refused to give access to private data in accordance with the investigations on terrorism for which the company is facing a fine of $10 million, owing to the new cybersecurity laws.

Angus Taylor, the cybersecurity and law enforcement minister states that these new laws will leave tech giants without a way to operate as agencies that offer encrypted communications via the “backdoor”. These laws are being put into effect to ensure that innocent people’s private information does not get exploited by terrorists or criminals looking to specifically take advantage of this confidential data.

Not offering access to the government leaves the law enforcement agencies without a way to track criminals who have gone dark. Offering this data would allow them to enforce surveillance. Prime Minister Turnbull promised last year that he would force tech companies and social media companies to cooperate as it is these secret service messaging that gives criminals the power to go dark and off the law enforcement’s radar.

In last year’s G20 agenda, the issue was pushed by the Minister, which urged leaders to stand united in this motion against the Silicon Valley. What is now being called a “threat” by Mr. Turnbull towards technology companies, it was indicated that the largest tech giants like Facebook and Apple were in the crosshairs of Germany, UK, and Australia. Although Donald Trump presented himself as a beacon of law and order to the world, it seemed unlikely that the president would side with the opposition against American tech giants. Doing so might put at risk the American economy.

The new laws by the government have been effectively developed and put forward post-consultation with the industry. The fresh regulations are comprised of five parts. These include requirements for companies to help agencies, as well as revise search warrant laws that allow spies and law enforcement an extensive access to devices and the data.

Within the framework, agencies are able to force providers of communication and tech services to undo the electronic protections in Australia. This directly relates to them providing technical information like design specs, install software, test equipment, access devices, and with a warrant be able to alert agencies of any change or covert activity in the system. To get the assistance of a company there will stand three levels of escalation.

Any interception agency like the police, the ASIO, Signals Directorate, or ASIS can readily issue a Technical Assistance Request after which the company must comply to assist.

The second escalation is the Technical Assistance Notice, a compulsory order signed off by the head of ASIO or an interception agency, asking once more to provide help to the agency.

The third level is the Technical Capability Notice which is signed off and given by Attorney General only at the request of an agency.

It is imperative that a tech or communication company held under TCN builds a functionality to offer what is required by agencies.

When a company fails to comply, the standard fine can be extended to $10 million for a single case of non- assistance. For individuals the fine is states at $50,000 in fines. However requests can be challenged in court. A company is able to recover its costs when it complies with a request from the agency on a no profit or a no loss basis.

The government itself is making it easier for agencies to search devices covertly. Laws in practice let them survey data and monitor communication in real time, however the changes in regulations will further legalize not just access but the freedom to copy data as they choose.

Government officials state that the industry is generally cooperating, and have even rearranged their legal framework for customers who can no longer hold the company liable for information disclosed

Over 90% of information has been intercepted by the federal law enforcement. It is encrypted but the new rules will let them access it before it is encrypted. Agencies want access to GPS data to track criminals.



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