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Defence Controls Could Criminalise Teaching Encryption

Encryption, the word has been used a lot recently in news reports and in virus attacks,

It is a technology that essentially locks your files up with a key that only you know, no-one else can get to that data without authorisation. It’s a really neat technology and has increased security across the globe and of course, with it involving IT and computers, it is involved on most computer science courses.It may sound crazy that a computer science course could be classified as an export of military technology. But under the Defence Trade Controls Act which will come into force next year – there is a possibility that even educational and research activities could break Australian defence export control laws.

The reason that this has become an issue is because a skill that you may learn at school or college could be used against the military. Like building an army to fight against yourself. Many protocols and methods are used in encryption that, if exploited could theoretically give students access to lots of information they shouldn’t even know existed. All listed on the Australian government’s Defence and Strategic Goods List (DSGL for short)

The DSGL contains detailed technical specifications. Very roughly, it covers encryption above a certain “strength” level, as measured by technical parameters such as “key length”. However, how powerful must encryption be to be classified as “dual-use” and a risk to the data. The specifications released as part of the law are so imprecise that they potentially include an algorithm you learned at primary school called division. If so, division has become a potential weapon against the military, and your calculator (or smartphone, computer, or any electronic device) is a potential delivery system for it; quite amusing really!

If you’re living somewhere else, these issues are not unique to Australia; the rules are copied almost verbatim from an international arms control agreement. What is unique to Australia is the strict level of regulation.

Thank you to TheConversation for providing us with this information

Image courtesy of Tech.eu

Robert Ainsworth

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