The Australian government has passed a law that forces tech companies to give police and security agencies access to encrypted messages, claiming it’s needed to fight crime.
What it says: The Assistance and Access Bill 2018 is a world first, letting law enforcement bodies require companies to hand over user information, even if it’s end-to-end encrypted. Because companies currently have no way of viewing end-to-end encrypted messages, they will be forced to build a “back door” to gain access.
The problem: But once you create a back door to bypass encryption for law enforcement purposes, it weakens security for everyone, everywhere. It cannot be targeted at just one person or one group of users, and it provides a potential avenue for hackers. For example, the UK health service’s biggest ever cyberattack—using WannaCry ransomware—was possible thanks to a Windows exploit found by the NSA in the US.
The future implications: We won’t know for sure until agencies start to use the new powers. Companies could leave Australia or argue they are not subject to Australian law. Amendments to the law are due to be raised for debate next year, but substantive changes seem unlikely.
A chip design that changes everything: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023
Computer chip designs are expensive and hard to license. That’s all about to change thanks to the popular open standard known as RISC-V.
Modern data architectures fuel innovation
More diverse data estates require a new strategy—and the infrastructure to support it.
Chinese chips will keep powering your everyday life
The war over advanced semiconductor technology continues, but China will likely take a more important role in manufacturing legacy chips for common devices.
The computer scientist who hunts for costly bugs in crypto code
Programming errors on the blockchain can mean $100 million lost in the blink of an eye. Ronghui Gu and his company CertiK are trying to help.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.