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Australian encryption-busting Bill fatally flawed: UN Special Rapporteur

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The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy has called for Australia’s Assistance and Access Bill to be set aside, and a new approach to be taken to addressing the challenges faced by law enforcement from the use of encryption.

“The Assistance and Access Bill is unlikely to be workable in some respects, and is an unnecessary infringement of basic liberties in other,” Cannataci wrote in a submission [PDF] to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security. “Its aims do not justify a lack of judicial oversight, or independent monitoring, or the extremely troubling lack of transparency.

“This Bill needs to be put aside. It is fatally flawed.”

Cannataci said the Bill is an example of “a poorly conceived national security measure that is equally as likely to endanger security as not”, and that it is technically questionable whether it can achieve its aims without introducing vulnerabilities.

The Special Rapporteur was dismissive of the oversight and transparency measures in the Bill, particularly the lack of judicial oversight and the ability for heads of agencies to approve actions by their own people.

“It is asserted that ‘The people who occupy these positions are trusted to exercise suitable judgment about the propriety of requests and well equipped to consider the reasonableness and proportionality of any requirements’,” Cannataci wrote.

“While heart-warming that such a state of trust exists in Australia, greater confidence would be generated in domestic and international quarters if the legislation established an independent mechanism that verifies proper conduct and use of far-reaching power by decision makers.”

Must read: Why Australia is quickly developing a technology-based human rights problem (TechRepublic)

Cannataci echoed concerns that a lack of privacy protections in Australia could see the nation be used a conduit for other countries to gain data.

“In the absence of a prohibition on or independent oversight to approve such requests, it will be important to establish conclusively that Australia is not becoming a ‘launderer’ of international requests for data,” he said.

On the technical front, the Special Rapporteur said it is “extremely questionable” whether access to encrypted content would be able to be restricted to one device.

“There are technical concerns around the assumption that it is possible to contain a vulnerability to one device or devices associated with one person,” he said. “The strong feeling is that ultimately, it would affect all users of that product and result in weaker security for everyone.”

Speaking last week, Director-General of Security at the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) Duncan Lewis said persistent monitoring would not fall under the auspices of the Assistance and Access Bill.

See: The race to ruin the internet is upon us

“In order to enable us to get through the encryption and understand what the content is behind the communication, it is very important we have the assistance of the company — nobody would be better informed as to how the system operates than the company themselves — but importantly it is not systemic, it doesn’t have an enduring time, it doesn’t have a breadth of — it’s not going to be ubiquitous across the community, it’s quite specific,” Lewis said.

Under the proposed law, Australian government agencies would be able to issue three kinds of notices:

  • Technical Assistance Notices (TAN), which are compulsory notices for a communication provider to use an interception capability they already have;
  • Technical Capability Notices (TCN), which are compulsory notices for a communication provider to build a new interception capability, so that it can meet subsequent Technical Assistance Notices; and
  • Technical Assistance Requests (TAR), which have been described by experts as the most dangerous of all.

Under the proposed laws, Lewis would be able to approve requests and assistance notices for ASIO.

In consultation on the Bill, a number of submissions have called for increased judicial oversight and for protections existing for the issuing of TCNs to be extended to TANs and TARs.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) specifically asked for the judicial oversight and disallowing of systemic weaknesses to be extended to voluntary requests for assistance, particularly in the case of small providers that may not have the resources available to determine whether complying to a TAR would introduce a systemic weakness.

“If passed, the Bill would invoke exceptions to the Australia Privacy Principles,” the OAIC said.

The ASIO chief said that although he can issue a TAN, and would only need the approval of the attorney-general for a TCN, often a warrant would already be in place.

“The only time the attorney-general [would] be invoked in any way in that equation [in issuing a TAN] would be if request for assistance involved us then looking for content,” he said. “But to tell you the truth, it normally happens the other way around: We would get the warrant for the content, and then discover that we had to approach the company to access that content.”

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Australia’s anti-encryption legislation fails to address human rights concerns: Committee

The Australian Parliament’s own human rights watchdog committee has identified a raft of concerns with the Assistance and Access Bill 2018, and is ‘seeking additional information’.

Dutton frames Encryption Bill debate as battle between protecting Silicon Valley or protecting Australians

Australian Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton claims the Bill is already watered down, and Labor should support it.

Australian industry and tech groups unite to fight encryption-busting Bill

The new mega-group has called on Canberra to ditch its push to force technology companies to help break into their own systems.

Encryption Bill sent to joint committee with three week submission window

Fresh from rushing the legislation into Parliament, the government will ram its legislation through the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

Home Affairs makes changes to encryption Bill without addressing main concerns

Services providers now have a defence to use if they are required to violate the law of another nation, and the public revenue protection clause has been removed.

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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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