According to statements published by the Australian government, the Five Eyes intelligence alliance have declared their intent to get software and hardware developers to insert backdoors that would enable governments to have easy access to encrypted data. Five Eyes is a sharing alliance for intelligence agencies. They are focused primarily on working together with English native speaking tongues. In this case it is the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. All parties follow the UKUSA Agreement, a multilateral treaty. While Australia has been a member since 1956, only in 1973 the Prime Minister became aware of the existence of the multinational surveillance alliance.
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden described the Five Eyes surveillance alliance as “sort of a supra-national intelligence organization that doesn’t answer to the laws of its own countries.”
In the preamble to the Five Eyes Statement of Principles on Access to Evidence and Encryption the surveillance alliance stated that “privacy is not absolute.” The surveillance alliance called on private industries to voluntarily give them backdoor access to encrypted data, but that if private industry would not cooperate, the five governments would pursue access to that data through other means. The statement goes on to say that the five governments will pursue access to encrypted data by using law enforcement, new legislation, technology, and other means. The statements do not explicitly use the term backdoor, but instead use the euphemism “lawful access”.
The new statements published on the Australian government’s Department of Home Affairs come after a meeting of representatives from each of the five countries that occurred August 28-29. The representatives included the following agencies from each country: Homeland Security, Immigration, and Public Safety. The statements which came out of the Five Eyes meeting for this year are full of doublespeak. While they claim they need access to encrypted data, they also claim encryption is vital for protecting e-commerce, as well as personal and government data. The statement also goes on to say how the rule of law is vital.
Also, the representatives of the five countries reiterated their commitment to fighting terrorism, child pornography, violent extremists, and others who use the internet for illegal purposes. The Five Eyes representatives claim to support an open, free, and secure internet. Yet the internet cannot be open, free, and secure if backdoors are inserted into products which use encryption. Giving governments backdoor access will also enable hackers and other governments to gain access to encrypted data as well. The five countries in Five Eyes are simply continuing the Crypto Wars.
The Five Eyes alliance calls for increased criminal intelligence sharing, in addition to increased national security intelligence sharing. The multinational surveillance alliance is particularly interested in increased sharing of information relating to drug crimes, cybercrime, and financial crime. This likely means an increase in resources dedicated to monitoring cryptocurrencies and people who use them. Earlier this year, DeepDotWeb reported on a leaked document that appears to reveal a joint program between the NSA and the United States Army to track Monero transactions and compromise anonymity technologies such as VPNs, Tor, and I2P.
As a member of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance, Australia has continually been calling for weakening encryption standards and backdoors. Last year the Australian Attorney General and the Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection released a statement calling for the sharing of more surveillance between the Five Eyes countries. The two Australian officials also called for the weakening of encryption standards in the statement from last year. However, in a new statement issued after the August meeting of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance, the alliance stated that they have no intentions of weakening encryption standards. The statement then goes on to say that end-to-end encryption is being used by terrorists.