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Aussie Cops Want Powers To Search Any Computer 262

Posted by kdawson
from the cold-dead-fingers dept.
goatherder23 writes in with news that the New South Wales cabinet has proposed new powers for police to search computers anywhere under a search warrant, and adds: "The Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse are invoked to explain why police need the new laws, which have yet to be introduced into Parliament. Would someone please explain to them before this happens that all computers on the Internet are "networked" and that some computers may be found outside NSW (or even Australia)?" "Police Minister David Campbell says police are currently only able to search computer hardware found on a premises named in a search warrant. He says with the changes, they will be able to go a step further and search other networked computers, regardless of where they are located. 'What we know is that there are organized crime gangs who use the Internet and other forms of technology to hide their crimes,' he said."
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Aussie Cops Want Powers To Search Any Computer

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  • Ineffective (Score:5, Insightful)

    by explosivejared (1186049) <hagan.jared@NOSPAM.gmail.com> on Thursday March 06, 2008 @11:11AM (#22663036)
    Any organized crime syndicate worth their weight is going to understand how to encrypt data and use hidden volumes. With the seven day limit, that only allows for a cursory search and not the kind of in depth forensic combing it would take to actually find actionable data. So in the end, the only people actually harmed of it are ordinary citizens who are having their rights abused by heavy handed searches.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Brian Gordon (987471)
      Couldn't they just low-level image it and give the drives back? Then they can comb at their leisure. Not that I'm supporting the bill- it's obviously stupid and a horrifying violation of search and seizure rights. Any intelligent australian will be full-volume passphrase encrypting their drives from now on.. when the police start realizing that they can't do anything with anyone's data without their permission, they might just give up?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rucs_hack (784150)
        Couldn't they just low-level image it and give the drives back?

        No, they will want to keep the drives in case something changes in the analysis technology, and they can extract more information. When you live in an environment which has a vested interest in suspicion, niceties rarely get much attention.
        • Re:Ineffective (Score:5, Informative)

          by denis-The-menace (471988) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @11:37AM (#22663372)
          Then just clone the drives and give the suspect the copy and not the original HD.
          • Re:Ineffective (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Qzukk (229616) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @11:42AM (#22663414) Journal
            That would imply that the suspect has some rights and that the government doesn't strip the accused of every right they have as soon as the finger has been pointed. Don't know how Australia does it, but in the US, look at everyone who gets their gear seized either in a raid or crossing a border. Also look up "civil forfeiture" which gives the government the right to steal your property for its own profit without a crime having occurred.
            • Also look up "civil forfeiture" which gives the government the right to steal your property for its own profit without a crime having occurred.
              And the "DHS discount" was born.
      • by c0p0n (770852) <copong@gTIGERmail.com minus cat> on Thursday March 06, 2008 @11:53AM (#22663578)
        Couldn't they just low-level image it and give the drives back? [...]

        Verbing weirds language.

      • by poetmatt (793785)
        Time based encryption?

        I seem to recall some dude who had encryption on his drive, notably a porn situation, where the crypto had some kind of time component where after a week the key rotated or something? Anyone have the links for it? I think that would cause some issues on this one too.
      • Couldn't they just low-level image it and give the drives back?

        No. Realistically, Chain of Custody requirements will force them to keep the actual hard drive, NOT a copy of it.

      • by kocsonya (141716)
        > when the police start realizing that they can't do anything with anyone's
        > data without their permission, they might just give up?

        Nope, they stamp you as a 'terrorist' and from that on you can more or less just disappear (sedition laws by Ruddock & Friends) never to be seen again. As the above named individual pointed out sleep deprivation, for example, is not torture, sooner or later you will tell them the passphrase. Or you won't, because you can't talk any more or can't remember it any more.
    • Re:Ineffective (Score:5, Insightful)

      by superwiz (655733) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @11:25AM (#22663238) Journal

      So in the end, the only people actually harmed of it are ordinary citizens who are having their rights abused by heavy handed searches.
      And you assume that this is not the actual intent. Why?

      "Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?" said Dr. Ferris. "We *want* them broken. You'd better get it straight That it's not a bunch of boy scouts you're up against- then you'll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We're after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you'd better get wise to it. There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What's there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted - and you create a nation of law-breakers - and then you cash in on guilt. Now that's the system, Mr. Rearden, that's the game, and once you understand it, you'll be much easier to deal with."

      • Re:Ineffective (Score:5, Informative)

        by AJWM (19027) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @11:41AM (#22663410) Homepage
        Attribution where due, please. From Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, which I heartily recommend. It makes especially good reading on a long train ride.
        • by superwiz (655733)
          Someone quoted this paragraph before while I was saying essentially the same thing as the grandparent. I recognized the quote right away from the rather unique Dr. Ferris attribution. I think this alone makes it clear that the whole thing is a quote from something. From what? Well, maybe trying to find who is Dr. Ferris will lead someone to finding who is John Galt. I left the by-line out on purpose. :)
        • by radarsat1 (786772)
          ... as long as that train doesn't go through a tunnel under a mountain.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by mentaldrano (674767)
          So that you can sleep the whole way.
    • Re:Ineffective (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @11:33AM (#22663314) Homepage

      Any organized crime syndicate worth their weight is going to understand how to encrypt data and use hidden volumes.

      I'm not entirely sure of that.

      Are all criminals tech savvy? Do they have an IT department to take care of such things? How much does organized crime rely on computers and network technology?

      Somehow I'm having a hard time imagining a bunch of people running a crime family sitting around deciding if they need stronger encryption, or different protocols, or using hidden volumes. I just can't see someone involved in drug smuggling, or extortion, or human trafficking firing up their laptops to print the cover sheet for their TPS report. :-P

      Maybe I'm totally wrong on this, and they're really dialed into these things. It just seems to damned bizarre to me as to almost be a sitcom.

      Cheers
      • Re:Ineffective (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jc42 (318812) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @12:46PM (#22664242) Homepage Journal
        Somehow I'm having a hard time imagining a bunch of people running a crime family sitting around deciding if they need stronger encryption, or different protocols, or using hidden volumes.

        Of course this is silly. The people running a crime family are like the people running any other business. They make the high-level decisions. The mundane details are handled by the people hired to take care of such things. If you've got a few geek kids in the family, it's not hard to develop an appropriate IT operation. Your business data needs aren't really any different from any other business, and you can use the same software as everyone else.

        How many CEOs have any clue about computers? Most of them never even touch a keyboard. Such things are for the hired help. It's no different with crime organizations. In fact, aside from externalities like the legality of their business, there's not really any difference to speak of.

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          Of course this is silly. The people running a crime family are like the people running any other business. They make the high-level decisions. The mundane details are handled by the people hired to take care of such things.

          Well, yes, obviously it's not the guys at the top doing the actual wiring and the like. But, I should think it much harder to recruit the geek-talent in that line of work. It's not like you can take out an ad, and you still need to be able to trust them not to hand you over to the cops.

      • by Sloppy (14984)

        Are all criminals tech savvy? Do they have an IT department to take care of such things?

        No, but non-criminals are the in same boat: most of them aren't tech-savvy. Thus, encryption-by-default and other common-sense security measures are requirements for all widely-deployed systems, in order to protect the innocent (whether from government, criminals, or whatever). We have fallen way behind on that, but it can't (or shouldn't, depending on how cynical you are) last forever. The mainstream needs secure I

  • War on Data (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chukcha (787065) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @11:11AM (#22663044)
    I expect that the "War on Data" will be as effective as the "War on Drugs", War on Terror", and "War on Poverty" have been. In other words, very successful at giving the state more control, more jobs, and more opportunities for corruption. Discuss...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06, 2008 @11:19AM (#22663156)
      Of course, for that is the real goal. What you are seeing are individual battles in the war on limits of government power. Every government, once formed, takes on a life of its own and seeks to increase authority, power and influence at the expense of personal liberty. Sadly, it is the natural order of things and the history books are rich with examples.
      Government power is like acid. It will eat away at the vessel that contains (no matter how well constructed, see the American Constitution for example) it until it escapes. It will destroy those in its path.

      I'm only an amateur student of history, but I am not aware of any instance where a government, once empowered, has relinquished those powers without force.

      • but I am not aware of any instance where a government, once empowered, has relinquished those powers without force.
        Gandhi? of course you all know the reason they teach about Gandhi, it's to show you that there's another way except force that worked well once, so there's no need for you to get up in arms against the government if Gandhi didn't have to.
        • Nope, sorry. Gandhi did an amazing job of forcing the British to hand over the reins of the Indian government to the Indians...but he didn't make the Indian government give up any powers. The government retained all the powers it had under British rule and even added some more.
      • by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreak.eircom@net> on Thursday March 06, 2008 @12:49PM (#22664288) Homepage Journal

        I'm only an amateur student of history, but I am not aware of any instance where a government, once empowered, has relinquished those powers without force.
        Here you go. [wikipedia.org]
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Chris Burke (6130)
          Here's another [wikipedia.org].

          Three times in the past fifty years the military in Turkey has overthrown the government through force (and once without), only to subsequently relinquish power and restore democracy.

          While the idea of a military who considers the stewardship of secular democracy to be their solemn duty is fascinating, I think the particular circumstances that lead to this being effective are fairly unique so in general I don't think it can work. Most coups don't work out that well for the people (which isn't
    • Government Requests More Power.

      Today the (insert country) government has introduced a bill that would greatly expand it's power. It claims that this to fight (evil thing), but realists note that it wouldn't be of significant use for the claimed utility.

      Lather, Rinse, Repeat.
  • by ArsenneLupin (766289) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @11:11AM (#22663048)

    The proposed laws would allow police to search computers networked to those listed on a search warrant.
    In a few words: Get a warrant for one computer, get a warrant for all computers worldwide that happen to be on the Internet. Gosh, and you Aussies let such laws pass without torching the parliament building, and putting all heads who voted for it on a stake?
    • by Brian Gordon (987471) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @11:32AM (#22663304)
      You'd expect that from a prison colony wouldn't you? :)
    • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @11:34AM (#22663324)
      Before today you would have thought "Government Seeks Warrant to Search the Internet" was a headline from The Onion.
      • by jc42 (318812)
        Before today you would have thought "Government Seeks Warrant to Search the Internet" was a headline from The Onion.

        It just illustrates a common complain from satirists: It's a difficult job, because no matter how outrageous you exaggerate, the real world keeps trumping your satire with something real that's more extreme than anything you'd dare to publish.

        Actually, I'd start by asking them why they don't just use google. It's funny how much private stuff can be found by just googling it. We've even seen
      • by kabocox (199019)
        Before today you would have thought "Government Seeks Warrant to Search the Internet" was a headline from The Onion.

        Well, it gets better. Wait until they go after MS and Google and request/require them to use those desktop search apps to search for things on your desktop.
    • RTFS (Score:5, Informative)

      by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Thursday March 06, 2008 @11:36AM (#22663344) Journal

      ...the New South Wales cabinet has proposed new powers for police to search computers anywhere under a search warrant, and adds: "The Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse are invoked to explain why police need the new laws, which have yet to be introduced into Parliament...."

      Read The Fucking Summary. Thank you.

      Or, if you still don't get it: The laws have been proposed, not passed. There's still the chance that parliament will figure out the implications and reject the law, in favor of sanity.

      • The laws have been proposed, not passed.

        Oops, you're right. I was a little bit fast, sorry for that. Ok, so I'll just wait the necessary 2 or 3 weeks, and post it again when the law is passed.

        There's still the chance that parliament will figure out the implications and reject the law, in favor of sanity.

        Well, let's hope so, but given the Aussies' past performance on all matters Internet, I somehow doubt this... Unless the Australian people raise enough of a stink against this beforehand...

      • Or, if you still don't get it: The laws have been proposed, not passed. There's still the chance that parliament will figure out the implications and reject the law, in favor of sanity.

        Oh you mean like how the Australian parliament figured out the implications of the new draconian gun laws [worldnetdaily.com] and rejected them in favour of sanity?

        You chide him for not reading the summary? You clearly don't know who your real enemy is or what he's capable of.

    • Get a warrant for one computer, get a warrant for all computers worldwide that happen to be on the Internet.

      Not a problem. They are free to search any internet connected computer on the internet now. Most will display public web pages and login pages. Going beyond the internet connected public space and trying to intercept encrypted content will be a problem with any and all protected content servers such as any e-commerce, and DRM content site.

      Think iTunes will let them in? how about Amazon, .gov sites,
      • Just because the warrant says they can search any computer networked with one on the premises doesn't mean they have to search every computer that falls under that category. They don't have to test the warrant against anything they know beforehand will screw them. They can just use their discretionary power to reach however far they want.

        • They can just use their discretionary power to reach however far they want.

          Reaching cross borders and through firewalls may be a problem. They don't have the keys and the locals may resist the intrusion.
    • by amplt1337 (707922)
      One begins to wonder what, exactly, would happen with all of the information that they gather from distant computers. Do the cops in question even have jurisdiction? Do the courts? Would Australian rules of evidence make any of this admissible?

      It seems like the law would serve more to justify blackmail and harassment than to generate legitimate evidence. Unless, you know, they're looking for terrorists or something.
    • and you Aussies let such laws pass without torching the parliament building

      The NSW Parliament hasn't passed anything. The laws haven't even been introduced into Parliament yet! They're thinking about suggesting this law, and even tabling it is still far away from passing it (or do you imagine the Parliament exists only to rubber-stamp legislation?)

      I know it's unfashionable to read articles here, but you could at least read the whole summary (or even simply the text you quoted) instead of every second word.

  • Networked? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by grassy_knoll (412409) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @11:12AM (#22663056) Homepage
    From TFA:

    The proposed laws would allow police to search computers networked to those listed on a search warrant.


    So, if there's a cable modem / DSL in use when the computer is searched the entire subnet could be searched? How about the web servers of sites displayed in a browser?

    How do these new regulations define "networked"?
    • by FST777 (913657)
      If history has taught us anything about the affinity politicians have with tech, the definition will probably be: "tied to each other using one or more electrical cables, wires or tubes."

      That or there will be no definition at all. Law is usually very vague in defining things, they assume that those things will be sorted out in jurisprudence.
  • So. If I understand this correctly, the newest addition to the curriculum of the police school will be:

    Intahwebs Hacking 101: How to break into networked computers for dummies.

    I don't quite get this bill, to be honest. There is almost never a fully open continuous connection between networked computers to begin with, and I seriously doubt that any sort of crime syndicate would be so stupid as to share directories over the internet or something equally dumb.

    So the only thing I can possibly think of is them t
  • Options (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06, 2008 @11:13AM (#22663066)
    Well, you can always move to the United States.
  • Not 100% sure of how closely Australia tracks with US laws, but would this require a full search warrant, or a bench warrant, or ...?

    (and do they have probable cause laws?)

    IOW, they still have to prove their case before they can start poking about, yes?

    (and now more than ever, we really need some tech-savvy law types to get their asses into judicial positions, no matter which country we're talking about...)

    /P

  • 'What we know is that there are organized crime gangs who use the Internet and other forms of technology to hide their crimes,' he said."
    If they can hide their crimes using the Internet, the crimes can't have been that bad in the first place?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hanners1979 (959741)
      If they can hide their crimes using the Internet, the crimes can't have been that bad in the first place?

      You'd be amazed how many dead bodies you can hide in a series of tubes.
      • by MrNemesis (587188)
        Is that why my dump trucks of data keep getting stuck in the tubes? It's entirely due to corpses? Brings a whole new meaning to the term "bandwidth throttling" - "use too much of the wrong data and we'll strangle you!".

        N.B. I'm patenting the idea of strangling people for using the internet in the wrong way. So if you want to use it Comcast (BTW, you might want to just call it 'permanent sentience delaying' in the T's and C's) you're going to have to pay me for it.
  • I count three:
    1. terrorism (boogedy-boogedy!)
    2. kiddie pr0n (think of the children!)
    3. fraud (oh no, my precious inbox is filled with spam!)

    What's number four?
  • by Cathoderoytube (1088737) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @11:18AM (#22663138)
    I guess it's worth noting that the law was just proposed, not actually passed. You could fill up a million pages on slashdot just with all the stupid bills governments all over the world table every day. So this is just playing on our guilty pleasure of ragging on any possibility of a law that would infringe on our rights, however unlikely they'll ever get passed.

    • by putaro (235078)
      If there's no outrage against it, it *will* get passed. These are the kind of laws that lazy law enforcement types love. They bring them again and again until they slip through somehow.

      The US has been passing stupid laws left and right in the wake of "9-11". Australia doesn't have to be so stupid. Be upset or it will happen.
    • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Thursday March 06, 2008 @12:01PM (#22663662)

      There's actually a pretty good reason for having a good, old-fashioned uproar whenever something like this is proposed. It's called a trial balloon, and the reason it's floated is so the government of the day can judge the level of outrage they'll have to deal with if they try to pass a similar law. The usual method is to propose something as ridiculous as this, then work hard to enact a less draconian alternative that still manages to undermine civil liberties in a big way. The non-thinking majority of drones then nod their heads wisely and say, "Wow, we really dodged a bullet on that one, didn't we."

      Not that I disagree with you about how much fun it is to ridicule these fascist half-wits, mind you. There's no rule that says you can't do something valuable and have a huge laugh at the same time.

    • You could fill up a million pages on slashdot just with all the stupid bills governments all over the world table every day.

      Could?

  • 'What we know is that there are organized crime gangs who use the Internet and other forms of technology to hide their crimes

    Yes, because when I (and my legitimate businessmen associates) want to hide my crimes, the first thing I do is post information about them on the internet. Because, of all places I could put my crimes in the hope of hiding them, the Internet is the best choice. It's not like law enforcement has the time to monitor all the tubes, after all, and even if they did, they can't check all

  • by Thanshin (1188877) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @11:21AM (#22663186)
    ...And their government to deny?

    Or is it wrong that the police even asks.

    I don't think they should be made responsible of analyzing the full ramifications of what they see as a chance to apply the law. Let them ask and politely deny the obviously idiotic proposition.
  • by Telecommando (513768) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @11:21AM (#22663190)
    Criminals also use roads and sidewalks, therefore when searching a property for criminal activity all properties connected by roads or sidewalks to the suspect property should be searched as well.
  • right to search networked computers, not only the computers found on site.. in 99.9% of the cases these computers are connected to the intertubes, thus making the computers they'd be allowed to search spread pretty much over the entire world. And speaking of intertubes, i wouldn't be surprised if US States Senator Ted Stevens agreed with it. O.o
  • And next... (Score:3, Funny)

    by kabdib (81955) on Thursday March 06, 2008 @11:33AM (#22663308) Homepage
    The proposed legislation giving us X-ray Mind-Reading Super Powers will permit us to find out when people are thinking Bad Thoughts, anywhere! Criminals should give themselves up now!

    Cop: "Yer unner arrest."

    Perp: "What for? I haven't done anything."

    Cop: "Dis machine here says you wuz gonna."

    Perp: "You got me. It's a fair cop."

  • some computers may be found outside NSW

    I think you missed a consonant there. "outside not safe work" doesn't even make any sense.
  • Police are lazy and want cases to solve themselves. Politicians are crooked and want to keep their "jobs" so they'll pull all kinds of shady shit and sell it to the sheep as "protecting them" so they can go about buying iPods and spending more than they make.
  • All it takes is one police officer seizing the hard drive of a politician whom he thinks is guilty of a crime because "it was networked with this other suspect's computer via the Internet" and threatening to seize other politicians' hard drives because they were networked with the first politician's computer.

    That's one reason I'm surprised so many politicians here in the US support George Bush's warrantless wiretapping -- what exactly do they believe prevents him from ordering the FBI/CIA/NSA/etc. to wireta
  • Then I'd be like the computer kid on Heroes. Hey Australians, Heroes isn't real. Mexicans don't make black goo come out of your eyes and kill you either.
  • They obviously haven't thought through what they're asking to do. They can legislate something like this all they want to, but it's just words on a page as soon as a network cable leaves Australian territory; no other country is obligated to allow them to barge in and search or seize computers. On top of that, I seriously doubt that Australian authorities would agree to authorities from other countries searching and seizing computers within Australia. I'm tempted to say that there's something else going on
  • Wow... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Thursday March 06, 2008 @01:20PM (#22664708) Homepage
    And I thought we had it bad here in Germany! At least our government only wants to spy on the computers of its own citizens, not the rest of the world...
  • This concept means that the police will be going away from fighting crime and more into information brokering. If information has value (and EVERY Slashdaughter believes that it does) then what the police find on the computers that they search is going to be worth a lot more than what it pays to be a policeman. You just have to know what it is worth when you find it.

    And policemen, being young and usually deeply into popular culture, will certainly copy for their own use any MP3 file or piec
  • Aussie Cops were disappointed when the response to their request was that searching computers was "not my bag, baby!" - so unfortunately for them the whole plan is scrapped.
  • The USA has had the power to search its citizens' bank and brokerage accounts anywhere in the world for decades now. Get used to the new wrld order.
  • This is what happens when people vote for "change", to get the old guy out even when things are actually running alright ... Rudd's seat is barely warm yet and we already have (a) government apologising to aboriginals on behalf of people who didn't actually perpetrate any wrong, (b) government wanting to install a 'great firewall' and blocking Internet porn for every citizen/subject by default unless they ask for special permission for it, and (c) now this, trying to get ridiculous expanded surveillance pow
  • And forget the password due to the 'stress of being investigated for something i haven't done', unless they have something that resembles our 5th amendment here in the states.

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