Breaking into devices that are protected with strong encryption has been a vexed issue for the government. While, on one hand it's easy to see the rationale for law enforcement wanting to access devices during criminal investigations, this needs to be balanced by the desire, or perhaps even right, for individuals to expect that their private communications and information remain private. But the government is pushing on with their legislative agenda, seeking to compel tech companies to help them access encrypted messages.
During the CeBIT event being held in Sydney this week the Minister for Law Enforcement and Cyber Security, Angus Taylor, maintained the government's position. During an address he said the government's goal is not to weaken encryption but find a position where the needs of law enforcement and the general public are balanced. Interestingly, he added that the government sees encryption as crucial but that they are working with international agencies to find a way through this complex area.
We've looked at this before and even tried to find a solution, but it's a complex problem. No-one wants encryption weakened and, in any case, the software and tools needed to make strongly encrypted systems are easily accessed.
Taylor said the government is not rushing their approach which, in one sense is wise. But, on the other hand, we know the creation and implementation of new technology happens far faster than any government's ability to legislate. So, even if the government made some rules, it's a sure bet the technology to circumvent them will be available before the paperwork hits the parliament.
It's been over two years since the FBI went to war with Apple over access to the San Bernardino terrorists' iPhone 5c. Since then, most smartphone makers have only made their devices more secure. It looks like an upcoming release of iOS will make things even more difficult and potentially circumvent the tools police are using for accessing locked devices.
This process is likely to take quite a bit more time I think. In that time, technology will strengthen the security of our devices and communications, and governments will keep playing catchup and never quite getting there.