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Amendments to Australia’s encryption laws stranded before election

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(Image: ParlView screenshot by Josh Taylor/ZDNet)

Eventually, one would think that the Australian Labor Party would be tired of being owned over and over again by the nation’s conservative parties, but here we are in the extremely likely final week of the 45th Parliament, and once again the ALP has been outmanoeuvred by the Coalition.

At every step in the process to the rush the Telecommunications and Other Legislation Amendment (Assistance and Access) Act into being, Labor has been played like a harp from hell.

The coup de grâce is the admission by shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus that the amendments that Labor has pinned its hopes on when it capitulated in December, were going to stall in the Parliament.

“Labor tried to begin that work during this term of Parliament by introducing amendments in the Senate on the 14th of February 2019,” Dreyfus said. “A majority of the Senate voted for those amendments but the government, which still maintains that this rushed legislation is perfect, has shut down debate on those amendments, and so, regrettably, we will not be able to pass them before the election.”

A mere three recommendations that included calling for more reviews and the proper resourcing of the oversight bodies for Australia’s encryption laws — Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Commonwealth Ombudsman, and Independent National Security Legislation Monitor — were issued by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) in a report delivered on Wednesday evening.

To add to the review by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, as well as the statutory review PJCIS is due to complete into the encryption and data retention laws, which Labor also helped vote into existence, Dreyfus said a Shorten Labor government would create an inquiry into the economical impact of the laws.

“Following that assessment, a Labor government would work to move any amendments that are required to reduce unnecessary impacts on Australian businesses,” Dreyfus said.

Dreyfus also said Labor would pursue its now stranded amendments in government, as well as require authorisation from a judicial officer in order to issue Technical Assistance Notices or a Technical Capability Notices.

In February, Dreyfus said the government’s amendments that were agreed to and passed by Labor in December were inadequate.

“It is not tenable to argue, as the government continues to argue, that its amendments largely implemented the committee’s 17 recommendations. No reasonable person accepts that,” Dreyfus said.

“This fiasco of lawmaking is what a job well done looks like to this chaotic government.”

That fiasco will continue to be the law of the land in Australia, and depending on the result of the upcoming election, could remain so for some time.

The dosage could be repeated before Parliament rises, as Labor is reportedly set to wave through the latest round of rushed legislation from the government that could potentially see social media executives jailed of their platforms are used to stream violent criminal acts.

In lieu of finding its spine, as it momentarily threatened to for a few brief hours last year, Labor at least didn’t get wedged on national security, as it attempts to plot a wedgeless path to the Lodge and power.

The local tech industry would do well to remember this process and how it was sold down the river, much like the data retention process before it, should a Labor government come a-knocking promising to make everything better in the coming months.

Related Coverage

AFP concerned about approving state police usage of Australia’s encryption laws

Concerns over a federal body overseeing the operations of state and territory authorities.

Australia’s encryption laws will fall foul of differing definitions

A cryptographer’s rebuttal to a GCHQ interception concept highlights how participants in the encryption-busting debate are talking past each other. What even is a “systemic weakness”, anyway?

Australia’s encryption laws are a cyber cane toad: Husic

Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy Ed Husic continues to state problems with the Bill his party rolled over on and passed.

Here we go again: PJCIS opens review of Australia’s encryption laws

The Joint Committee will follow its rushed inspection of Australia’s encryption laws with a rushed review of the amendments made on Parliament’s last day of 2018.

Australian encryption laws sent off to Nat Sec Legislation Monitor for review

Independent National Security Legislation Monitor due to report back by March 1, 2020.

Australia’s encryption laws are ‘highly unlikely’ to dragoon employees in secret

Relax, developers, the Assistance and Access Act is ‘highly unlikely’ to force employees to deceive their bosses by creating secret backdoors. Nor does it breach Europe’s GDPR digital privacy laws.

What’s actually in Australia’s encryption laws? Everything you need to know

The controversial Assistance and Access Bill was 176 pages long, then 67 pages of amendments were rushed through in the final hours of debate. This is what we’ve ended up with.



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Cloud Data Security

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Data security has become an immutable part of the technology stack for modern applications. Protecting application assets and data against cybercriminal activities, insider threats, and basic human negligence is no longer an afterthought. It must be addressed early and often, both in the application development cycle and the data analytics stack.

The requirements have grown well beyond the simplistic features provided by data platforms, and as a result a competitive industry has emerged to address the security layer. The capabilities of this layer must be more than thorough, they must also be usable and streamlined, adding a minimum of overhead to existing processes.

To measure the policy management burden, we designed a reproducible test that included a standardized, publicly available dataset and a number of access control policy management scenarios based on real world use cases we have observed for cloud data workloads. We tested two options: Apache Ranger with Apache Atlas and Immuta. This study contrasts the differences between a largely role-based access control model with object tagging (OT-RBAC) to a pure attribute-based access control (ABAC) model using these respective technologies.

This study captures the time and effort involved in managing the ever-evolving access control policies at a modern data-driven enterprise. With this study, we show the impacts of data access control policy management in terms of:

  • Dynamic versus static
  • Scalability
  • Evolvability

In our scenarios, Ranger alone took 76x more policy changes than Immuta to accomplish the same data security objectives, while Ranger with Apache Atlas took 63x more policy changes. For our advanced use cases, Immuta only required one policy change each, while Ranger was not able to fulfill the data security requirement at all.

This study exposed the limitations of extending legacy Hadoop security components into cloud use cases. Apache Ranger uses static policies in an OT-RBAC model for the Hadoop ecosystem with very limited support for attributes. The difference between it and Immuta’s attribute-based access control model (ABAC) became clear. By leveraging dynamic variables, nested attributes, and global row-level policies and row-level security, Immuta can be quickly implemented and updated in comparison with Ranger.

Using Ranger as a data security mechanism creates a high policy-management burden compared to Immuta, as organizations migrate and expand cloud data use—which is shown here to provide scalability, clarity, and evolvability in a complex enterprise’s data security and governance needs.

The chart in Figure 1 reveals the difference in cumulative policy changes required for each platform configuration.

Figure 1. Difference in Cumulative Policy Changes

The assessment and scoring rubric and methodology is detailed in the report. We leave the issue of fairness for the reader to determine. We strongly encourage you, as the reader, to discern for yourself what is of value. We hope this report is informative and helpful in uncovering some of the challenges and nuances of data governance platform selection. You are encouraged to compile your own representative use cases and workflows and review these platforms in a way that is applicable to your requirements.

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GigaOm Radar for Data Loss Prevention

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Data is at the core of modern business: It is our intellectual property, the lifeblood of our interactions with our employees, partners, and customers, and a true business asset. But in a world of increasingly distributed workforces, a growing threat from cybercriminals and bad actors, and ever more stringent regulation, our data is at risk and the impact of losing it, or losing access to it, can be catastrophic.

With this in mind, ensuring a strong data management and security strategy must be high on the agenda of any modern enterprise. Security of our data has to be a primary concern. Ensuring we know how, why, and where our data is used is crucial, as is the need to be sure that data does not leave the organization without appropriate checks and balances.

Keeping ahead of this challenge and mitigating the risk requires a multi-faceted approach. People and processes are key, as, of course, is technology in any data loss prevention (DLP) strategy.

This has led to a reevaluation of both technology and approach to DLP; a recognition that we must evolve an approach that is holistic, intelligent, and able to apply context to our data usage. DLP must form part of a broader risk management strategy.

Within this report, we evaluate the leading vendors who are offering solutions that can form part of your DLP strategy—tools that understand data as well as evaluate insider risk to help mitigate the threat of data loss. This report aims to give enterprise decision-makers an overview of how these offerings can be a part of a wider data security approach.

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Key Criteria for Evaluating Data Loss Prevention Platforms

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Data is a crucial asset for modern businesses and has to be protected in the same way as any other corporate asset, with diligence and care. Loss of data can have catastrophic effects, from reputational damage to significant fines for breaking increasingly stringent regulations.

While the risk of data loss is not new, the landscape we operate in is evolving rapidly. Data can leave data centers in many ways, whether accidental or malicious. The routes for exfiltration also continue to grow, ranging from email, USB sticks, and laptops to ever-more-widely-adopted cloud applications, collaboration tools, and mobile devices. This is driving a resurgence in the enterprise’s need to ensure that no data leaves the organization without appropriate checks and balances in place.

Keeping ahead of this challenge and mitigating the risk requires a multi-faceted approach. Policy, people, and technology are critical components in a data loss prevention (DLP) strategy.

As with any information security strategy, technology plays a significant role. DLP technology has traditionally played a part in helping organizations to mitigate some of the risks of uncontrolled data exfiltration. However, both the technology and threat landscape have shifted significantly, which has led to a reevaluation of DLP tools and strategy.

The modern approach to the challenge needs to be holistic and intelligent, capable of applying context to data usage by building a broader understanding of what the data is, who is using it, and why. Systems in place must also be able to learn when user activity should be classified as unusual so they can better interpret signs of a potential breach.

This advanced approach is also driving new ways of defining the discipline of data loss prevention. Dealing with these risks cannot be viewed in isolation; rather, it must be part of a wider insider risk-management strategy.

Stopping the loss of data, accidental or otherwise, is no small task. This GigaOM Key Criteria Report details DLP solutions and identifies key criteria and evaluation metrics for selecting such a solution. The corresponding GigOm Radar Report identifies vendors and products in this sector that excel. Together, these reports will give decision-makers an overview of the market to help them evaluate existing platforms and decide where to invest.

How to Read this Report

This GigaOm report is one of a series of documents that helps IT organizations assess competing solutions in the context of well-defined features and criteria. For a fuller understanding consider reviewing the following reports:

Key Criteria report: A detailed market sector analysis that assesses the impact that key product features and criteria have on top-line solution characteristics—such as scalability, performance, and TCO—that drive purchase decisions.

GigaOm Radar report: A forward-looking analysis that plots the relative value and progression of vendor solutions along multiple axes based on strategy and execution. The Radar report includes a breakdown of each vendor’s offering in the sector.

Solution Profile: An in-depth vendor analysis that builds on the framework developed in the Key Criteria and Radar reports to assess a company’s engagement within a technology sector. This analysis includes forward-looking guidance around both strategy and product.

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