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Australian Law Could Criminalize the Teaching of Encryption 208

New submitter petherfile writes: According to Daniel Mathews, new laws passed in Australia (but not yet in effect) could criminalize the teaching of encryption. He explains how a ridiculously broad law could effectively make any encryption stronger than 512 bits criminal if your client is not Australian. He says, "In short, the DSGL casts an extremely wide net, potentially catching open source privacy software, information security research and education, and the entire computer security industry in its snare. Most ridiculous, though, are some badly flawed technicalities. As I have argued before, the specifications are so imprecise that they potentially include a little algorithm you learned at primary school called division. If so, then division has become a potential weapon, and your calculator (or smartphone, computer, or any electronic device) is a potential delivery system for it."
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Australian Law Could Criminalize the Teaching of Encryption

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @05:12AM (#49733979)

    Your government is the good guys. So, if you want to hide something from us, you must be with the bad guys. M'kay?

    • by gnupun ( 752725 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @07:18AM (#49734345)

      But the government guys will counter-argue that encryption allows anonymity, which in turn will enable ease of illegal transactions, like on silk road. Of course, weak encryption will discourage future silk roads, but also create a big brother society.

      • If you have nothing to hide, then you don't need to wear clothes (bill provision to be added by the sunscreen manufacturing coalition). So if you see someone walking around with clothes and they're not uniformed police, they're probably a criminal and should be reported.

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      Or maybe the only reason I'm hiding it from you is that I don't want bad guys seeing it... If it's easy enough to crack that you know how to read it without my knowledge, then so could they.
    • by chihowa ( 366380 )

      And of course, actual "good guys" don't have to continually describe themselves by that label because it's apparent by their actions.

  • by aaaaaaargh! ( 1150173 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @05:14AM (#49733989)

    To be on the safe side, you should never teach math in Australia, especially not combinatorics!

  • by Mal-2 ( 675116 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @05:18AM (#49733999) Homepage Journal

    Governments worldwide that are marching to fascism want encryption banned. God forbid (and you bet they'll invoke God in what they're doing) you should be able to talk to someone in a manner they can't easily listen in on! This is not an unintended effect of sloppy legalese, it's a fully intentional consequence of obfuscated legalese.

    Will they nail you for communicating with your bank? No. Will they nail you for communicating with someone they consider "undesirable"? You bet your arse they will.

    • It's not just encryption. Governments adore overly-broad laws in general. This makes everyone guilty of something. Then governments can just prosecute anybody they don't like in a completely arbitrary fashion.

      • The key problem is that politicians rarely want to take the responsibility for abolishing a law, unless it is from 1900 and concerns lending vacuum cleaners to your neighbour in Colorado, whereas being a sharp 'law and order guy' often helps in getting more voters (mostly thanks to hysteric mass media). Hence, the laws accumulate and are getting broader and broader.

    • #define BITLEN 48 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @06:59AM (#49734299) Journal
      Old fart Aussie software dev here, as recently as the early 90's Australia (and the US/UK) considered encryption techniques to be a "munition" for export purposes, it was illegal to export anything stronger than 48bit. Then some bloke [] put out some OSS called PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), he had stayed within the regulations by using something like #define BITLEN 48, but also given the world an algorithm that could be trivially changed to any arbitrary length and re-compiled. This created a legal paradox that drove the customs people nuts, there was a huge fuss about it at the time but eventually the various governments realised the regulations were unenforceable and dropped/ignored them.

      Aussies made a huge mistake at the last election. This mob have managed to politically unite Aussies (against them) in a way I haven't witnessed since the downfall of Gough Whitlam (IMO - due to GW's "sore loser" re-election campaign). Trust us, we have mandatory voting and will boot this embarrassing mob out the first chance we get. There isn't a sector of Aussie society they haven't upset in the past year alone, the only chance the conservatives have of winning is if they put Turnbull back in charge and allow him to purge the "tea party" types from the current cabinet, they have way to much power for the tiny slice of Aussie society that they represent.
      • by jonwil ( 467024 )

        I wouldn't count on Abbot loosing an election, not as long as the sheeple in this country continue to believe the garbage spoon-fed to them by Mr Murdoch and his empire (an empire which basically declared all out war on the ALP at the last election and would probably do so again because of certain policies the ALP have that would be VERY bad for Mr Murdoch and his interest if they became law like the policy to make his empire pay the tax they are supposed to be paying)

      • by jmv ( 93421 )

        Having lived in Australia a few years, I've been amazed at how good the voting system is (mandatory, with ranking)... and how bad the outcome has been (Howard at the time) despite the good system.

        • Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.

          • If you're going to just go ahead and assume it works as intended, sure.

            By the same token I'd say Benevolent Dictatorship is a better form of government, the tricky part is the benevolence.

            Besides, democracy assumes people want a say in how the country is run, most of them don't and of those that do, have you spoken to any of them and thought they should?

        • by mjwx ( 966435 )

          Having lived in Australia a few years, I've been amazed at how good the voting system is (mandatory, with ranking)... and how bad the outcome has been (Howard at the time) despite the good system.

          The first problem with the last election was primarily that Murdoch went on an unrelenting attack on Labor. Coverage was so skewed that it wasn't funny.

          The second problem was that there were too many back room preference deals. More people voted for Labor than the Liberal party but because the Liberal party had a lot of preference deals with smaller parties they received enough to get them _just_ past the post.

          Voter apathy is still a huge problem in Australia and our mandatory voting system is part of

    • by Maritz ( 1829006 )

      Governments worldwide that are marching to fascism want encryption banned.

      These fucking retards don't even realise they can't buy shit on Amazon without encryption. They're that fucking stupid. Let's see Australia ban HTTPS and watch hilarity ensue ;)

      • by PPH ( 736903 )

        can't buy shit on Amazon

        Then they will set up an site. With no encryption and higher prices.

    • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

      Will they nail you for communicating with someone they consider "undesirable"? You bet your arse they will.

      The provisions for doing this were passed and exist in Section 187 of the 2015 Data Retention act. Provisions to collect your information without the use of an interception warrant (email, sms, voicemail) passed in the 2004 Anti terrorism act.

      The defense trade control act will probably used to make sure they can keep reading them.

    • Governments worldwide that are marching to fascism want encryption banned.

      Encryption is but a tiny side-show in the global march towards Collectivism — the coin, of which Fascism and Socialism are indistinguishable sides. As predicted long ago []:

      The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.

      — Thomas Jefferson to Edward Carrington, Paris, May 27, 1788

      It starts with concern for the poor, that inevitably causes the government to undertake support of the downtrodden with various "War on Poverty" initiatives.

      A few decades and trillion-dollars into it [], there are not only millions of recipients of the dole, there are also tens of thousands of government officials involved in distributing it. The combination makes it impossible to stop the foolish undertaking — it may be reformed and rearranged, but it can not be ended.

      And then comes the idea, that, if we must support the unsuccessful among us, we should try to prevent them from doing (what we consider to be) stupid things: take drugs, drive too fast, eat fat [] (no, not fat [], sugar []!). Right here on Slashdot [], the idea that our self-imposed responsibility for others allows us to control their actions, is alive and well.

      And then government types begin to deliberately rearrange things to be able to attach their own strings to various incentives you can not refuse. The first example of this was, probably, the imposition of federal speed-limit by mandating [], that States receiving federal Federal highway funds [] implement them.

      The most recent example here is the federal take-over of education loans, which allows the Administration to better control [], what the colleges teach and what students do. Because it raises the tuition costs [] so much, fewer and fewer students will be able to forgo such federal aid and will be forced to accept it — with all of the strings attached to them and the colleges they attend.

      Compared to these aspects of the Collective increasingly controlling the Individual's life, use of encryption is of little to no consequence. Maybe, a new Republic in Antarctica, on the Moon or Mars will take the lessons of our errors to heart — the way our Founding Fathers studied those of the Romans...

  • by abies ( 607076 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @05:31AM (#49734041)

    What is the 'key length' of one time pad containing 1MB of data? Xoring against properly randomized one time pads is one of strongest encryptions possible, will teaching about XOR also forbidden under new ruling?

  • We had a chance to be great, but we elected John Howard and it's been all down hill since then.

    Thankfully I have multiple citizenships, but NZ or the UK aren't much better. At least the latter gives me an avenue into the EU and Switzerland, though.

    • I lived in Oz during the Howard era. Abbott's making him look pretty good.

      • by drsmithy ( 35869 )

        That's hardly an achievement. Abbot is making Kevin Rudd look good.

        • Kevin Rudd might actually have made a good PM if he'd not got stabbed in the back before he'd had half a chance.

          • by drsmithy ( 35869 )

            Kevin '07 was eager to open the immigration floodgates and let anyone in who wanted to buy property. He'd drunk deeply of the neoliberal koolaid.

      • Democracy: an endless cycle of elect and regret.
        (Eric X. Li on, a very interesting video [])

    • by Skapare ( 16644 )
      you can go direct to DK. many people have.
  • 512 Words (Score:5, Funny)

    by randalware ( 720317 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @05:33AM (#49734051) Journal

    How about outlawing the teaching of any religion with a major text longer than 512 words ?

    • by Minupla ( 62455 )

      I don't know - you can do a lot of damage in 512 words. I think we should stick to the letter of the law - 512 bits, Even if they try some fancy representation that should keep them out of trouble - and no references to call out tables, you sneaky religious types!


  • by BringMyShuttle ( 4121293 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @05:36AM (#49734063)
    The DSGL gives Department of Defence bureaucrats incredible power over scientists and researchers. It's a blatant grab for power by a department riddled with corruption: [] []
    http://bayesian-intelligence.c... [] []
    • While they are at it, can they ban the reading of subversive books such as Applied Cryptography? I hear public book burnings were once popular. Perhaps they should make a comeback.

      For extra credit, please also ban independent thought.
  • ... that 512 bit elliptic curve cryptography is still quite good. :D
  • by TeknoHog ( 164938 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @05:49AM (#49734103) Homepage Journal
    ..and his weapons of math instruction.
  • by gnasher719 ( 869701 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @06:06AM (#49734149)
    Volume 2 of "The Art Of Computer Programming" contains an excellent description of RSA.

    Actually, a decent mathematician should figure out RSA if you just remind them that every prime number has a primitive root, and that primitive roots of about half of all primes can be used to solve x^3 = a (modulo p) for primes p, and to solve x^3 = a (modulo pq) for a product of two primes pq if p and q are known, but not if only the product pq is known.

    For large primes (like 1024 or 2048 bit) the number of calculations needed are a bit lengthy, but even a naive implementation on a modern computer is fast enough to implement it. Maybe not fast enough for hard disk encryption, but fast enough to encrypt a few megabytes of documents.
  • by mentil ( 1748130 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @06:12AM (#49734157)

    If having XOR is criminal, then only criminals will have XOR.

  • by Virtucon ( 127420 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @06:47AM (#49734263)

    This isn't a good omen for The Legion of The Bouncy Castle.. []

  • I guess ROT2^513+8 encryption is too strong for the Aussies to crack?

  • Let me be blunt:
    Fuck 'em!

  • by sandbagger ( 654585 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2015 @08:23AM (#49734667)

    No, really. This is what it would come down to.

    We need encryption for banking, day to day transactions at every store, as well as general communications in industry generally. Banning the study of encryption would guarantee that Australia becomes a second rate country in computer science.

  • I guess it's illegal to tell you my ROT-520 algorithm is actually (ROT-13 * 40) now.
    Doh! I've just committed a crime in the eyes of the Australian government! So much for that Australian vacation.
  • ... all about division, how it works, and how to do it without using my calculator?
  • These people are even more batshit insane than the government here in the good ole USA...Thats what you get with people writing laws on subjects they have ABSOLUTELY NO knowledge about... And to think I was close to emigrating to Australia back in the early 70s, after visiting there in my youth... May saner heads prevail....

  • Doesn't this mean that expert witnesses, in criminal prosecution trials, would become harder to procure? After all, you're making the *knowledge* illegal.

  • The Australians must have got the idea from the nutcase British Prime Minister who wants to make all encryption illegal.... so ban all paper and pens "for your safety". []

  • When did Australia hop on board the idiot train?
  • After all, they could be used for encryption algorithms using key sizes in the gigabyte range!
  • at all costs. Sure, USA is bad but the little cousins are determined to show up everyone else. The UK and AUS in particular are about as bad as it gets.

  • They will go away in a few years.
  • Just askin'. Not an expert in encryption and not sure the number of bits employed in HTTPS, but wouldn't this basically ban a secure Internet in Oz? Many important non-Australian sites would not be available there. I'm guessing much, if not most, Internet traffic comes from overseas to Oz; again, not sure.
  • Are their noses that far up Uncle Sam's arse? They seem to be stealing every page from the GOP's playbook.

!07/11 PDP a ni deppart m'I !pleH