Australia’s controversial anti-encryption laws threaten the future of modern business

If you Google the word “encryption” today, you’re bound to come across an article about Australia’s anti data encryption laws. The damage caused by such vague and highly intrusive rules are extensive and in the news almost daily.

Last year, the Australian parliament passed the now controversial anti-encryption law under the guise of national security. However, because they are quite ambiguous, these same laws can be used to access personal and corporate data (even if it was encrypted). All this can be achieved legally, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with national security.

This means that all data hosted on the continent will be vulnerable to government intrusion. For example, in the proceeding months, these laws have been used to bypass journalist protections.

This is deeply concerning as end-to-end encryption is what protects journalists and their sources in the age of data. In fact, it’s what keeps people alive.

So what does this all mean?

This means that Australian authorities can compel tech companies like Apple and Facebook to provide backdoor access to their highly secure messaging platforms (namely, WhatsApp and iMessage).

It also means that law enforcement or anyone who can compromise security personnel (with access), can approach an employee working for these organizations with these demands (and not the institutions themselves). Companies that fail to comply will be slapped with a fine that can rise to $7.3 million.

According to Dr. Carsten Rudolph, Director of Oceania Cyber Security Centre and Associate Professor with the Faculty of IT at Monash University, “cryptography and security protocols are fundamental for many digital processes from e-commerce, banking, payments, to supply chains, control of critical infrastructures, and others. Thus, it mainly protects our data, prevents crime, and enables digitization of our economies in the first place. Building any kind of third-party access into our systems undermines this security. Even worse, it might push criminals into other less visible and actually secure communication channels. I guess, we need to learn to live with secure cryptography, rather than weaken it and risk privacy and security just to strengthen security in a different area.”

What does this mean for business?

It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that these rules have led to an exodus of data from the country. It could also spell bankruptcy for cloud companies that are based in Australia. Even the e-commerce and cloud computing giant, Amazon, was quick to blast these anti-encryption laws that are technically flawed.

Multinationals who operate in countries like China and Russia with strong censorship laws have also blacklisted Australia after this legislation came into effect. This can be attributed to that fact that providing access to sensitive information to even law enforcement can lead to corporate espionage.

While the tech industry pressures the Australian government to amend these laws, it’s no secret that the country as a whole has become less competitive. These laws are also suffocating what was once a thriving startup scene.

All this should serve as a stark warning to the Trump administration that’s flirting with the idea of banning end-to-end encryption. But for us in Switzerland, these turn of events could be the beginning of a “gold rush.” This is because Switzerland boasts strict privacy and security laws that will help keep both individual and enterprise data safe and secure from prying eyes.

Want to learn more about safely storing your data in Switzerland? Schedule a call with one of our in-house experts.

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