The Australian government is currently seeking the ability to inspect messages sent by its citizens, even if those messages are encrypted. Like the UK, the Australian government feels that it would be able to prevent more terror attacks if it could have a backdoor into people's messaging apps. The Australian Attorney General, George Brandis, has also claimed that British spooks at GCHQ have the ability to crack end-to-end encryption.
Before anyone panics though, it's quite unlikely that GCHQ does actually have that ability. Instead, it's probably though using other hacking tools that the intelligence services are able to access the WhatsApp messages of some suspects. For example, through installing malware on their phones. Decrypting messages sent with encryption is, of course, possible with time. The problem is that the time it takes is roughly 1 billion years with a pretty decent supercomputer.
Australia is currently undergoing the same government ignorance about encryption as we in the UK must suffer at the hands of officials who don't understand data security. We've got Amber Rudd and her blathering about hashtags, the Australians have a Prime Minister who made the following remarkable statement: "The laws of Australia prevail in Australia, I can assure you of that. The laws of mathematics are very commendable but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia".
It's not clear what Australia will eventually do with regard encryption. It could make it illegal to sell anything that doesn't have a backdoor, at which point it would have to say goodbye to companies like Apple. Brandis says this isn't what he wants, but he's also suggested that companies should hand over encryption keys when requested. This, however, isn't how encryption works and WhatsApp can't simply hand over keys as they are generated by each device using its public key.
Anyway it's always nice to know it's not just the UK that is losing its mind over modern technology. [via The Register]