Sep 5, 2012

National security hysteria, the fastest-growing crime in Aust

Wild claims about cybercrime are a key tool in inflating spending on cybersecurity and expanding the powers of governments, like the latest proposal for two-year data retention.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Yesterday Attorney-General Nicola Roxon attended the Security in Government Conference in Canberra, a gathering of industries that make money from national security theatre. Her speech touched on proposals currently before the Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and appeared to support the proposal for two-year data retention.

This was at odds with the Attorney-General’s Department discussion paper, which merely put forward data retention as a proposal on which the government was seeking views. That is, having gone to the effort of establishing an inquiry into extensions of national security powers, an effort that entailed some wrestling with the powerful JCIS, Roxon has simply pre-empted the committee’s inquiry, hearings for which kicked off this morning in Melbourne.

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63 thoughts on “National security hysteria, the fastest-growing crime in Aust

  1. fractious

    Brilliant, thanks Bernard for the analysis and the questioning, and the background research from the US deflating (if not disproving) the rhetoric and windy claims from the usual self-interested suspects – the AFP, ATO, ASIO and (as you put it) the “industries that make money from national security theatre.” Even if cybercrime was the “fastest growing crime” I haven’t seen any explanation as to how such severe infringements of people’s rights to privacy and expression will make a jot of difference say three years down the track, when most of the perpetrators will have devised any number of new means of getting around the measures Roxon and the AGD want to ram through. Rather like inventors of malware are always half a step ahead of anti-malware.

  2. Mark Duffett

    Anything using the phrase ‘fastest growing’ should instantly trigger a BS alert. It’s routinely used in all sorts of spheres to inflate perceptions of something coming off an extremely low base (renewable energy is another common example), benefiting as it does from the fundamental mathematical instability of dividing by numbers very close to zero. Indeed, all you need to do is come up with a new crime, say streaking through Parliament House, and you can then say its incidence is increasing infinitely quickly.

  3. Andrew Rreilly

    It’s worth wondering “why now?”, I think. What has changed in the internet landscape recently, to prompt such a radical proposal? The biggest thing that I can think of is cloud services like iCloud, google docs and the soon-to-be-big MS Live services. The difference (from the Web and Web-2.0 days) is that instead of just a trail of URLs from browsers, some e-mail and facebook updates, people are being encouraged to move their entire digital existence (or large chunks of it) into “the cloud”. In order to get your data into and out of the cloud, it has to go through your ISP. So logging all traffic will (soon) amount to retaining copies of *all* your stuff: photos, documents, address books, the lot. Many people who still keep their data on their home PC also use cloud-based backups, so it’s still all going over the wires. Now most of these services are supposed to be cryptographically secured, so perhaps there is nothing to fear (just another set of backups, perhaps), but if that was the case why would the AFP and the ATO be so keen to collect it?

    Another thing that worries me is that this mountain of hard drives has a life expectancy of a couple of years, after which they will start to be replaced. How confident can we be that the old drives (with our logged data on them) will be carefully destroyed or wiped-clean, and not just wind up at a dump or second-hand sale, with data intact?

  4. Damian Lloveda

    Boss – great article Bernard, again! Onwards we forge to a technological dystopia.

  5. Suzanne Blake

    Labor is just trying to creat headlines and get the discussion off Carbon Tax, Leadership, Polls, Economy etc.

    They why Swans pops up and attachs Gina etc on bad Labor news days.

  6. Linda Jaivin

    On the subject of national security hysteria, this item was included in the ‘Opportunities and Competitions’ section of the newsletter of the Australian Society of Authors that came out today:
    ‘Australia’s Security Nightmares Short Story Competition
    30 September
    Prize money of $1000 for a short story to aid the national security community in imagining contemporary threats. The competition aims to produce a set of short stories that will contribute to a better conception of possible future threats and help defence, intelligence services, emergency managers, health agencies and other public, private and non-government organisations to be better prepared. The ASRC competition also aims to raise community awareness of national security challenges, and lead to better individual and community resilience. New, unpublished writers are encouraged to enter the competition.’

  7. Stevo the Working Twistie

    Even if I accept that ID Theft is a clear and present danger, can somebody please explain to me how capturing 2 years of my internet and email activity is going to protect me in any way? Seems to me the presence of such a repository would increase the risk.

    Oh, and SB? How about, just once, you actually formulate a response to the topic rather than just blurting out your standard tripe? Go on. Shock us all.

  8. lindsayb

    this legislation is just another step in our headlong rush towards authoritarian tyrannical government, and this sort of thing seems to be happening globally. Worrying.

  9. klewso

    I’m doing my bit already – I check under my bed every night before I lay me down to sleep. But I don’t get paid to it.

    [I thought misusing steroids was a “fast growing crime”?]

  10. Mark Hurd

    XKCD on “fastest-growing”:


    (Sorry first dog, XKCD does get me LOLling more often than you… )

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