Telcos burdened with new network security laws

The federal government today revealed draft new laws to strengthen security on Australian mobile networks.

The Attorney-General’s Department today released a draft of the new legislation and called on industry stakeholders for comment.

If passed, the legislation will amend to the telecommunications laws to require carriers, ISPs and the communications watchdog to “do their best” to prevent Australian telecommunications networks from being unauthorised access and being used for crimes.

The proposed new laws would also require carriers and other network operators to “notify security agencies of key changes to networks and management systems that could adversely affect their ability to protect their networks”.

The government said that the ongoing cost of administering the scheme would run to $1.6 million per year.

The new laws would mean that carriers could be forced to divulge commercially sensitive information. In a memorandum attached to the bill released today, the government wrote: “A change to equipment or service supplier arrangements that relate to one or more of these sensitive parts of the network may give rise to national security considerations and therefore should be considered within the context of compliance with the new security obligation and notification requirements”.

“Some parts of telecommunications networks, facilities, systems and operations are also more vulnerable to national security threats than others. It is changes to these more vulnerable or ‘sensitive parts’ that will be of particular interest to ASIO and AGD from a compliance perspective,” it added.

The proposed legislation would also extend the federal government’s powers to force carriers to hand over information under provisions of current telecommunications laws requiring them to assist law enforcement authorities to investigate crimes and safeguard national security. Carriers cold face civil penalties for failing to do so.

Australia’s peak telecommunications industry body Communications Alliance said it would need more time to consider the draft laws before commenting in detail.

However, Communications Alliance chief John Stanton partly welcomed the government’s decision to retreat from plans to charge telecommunications carriers for the cost of the scheme by increasing industry levies.

The government was still, however, burdening industry with additional regulations.

“The proposed regime does represent new ‘red-tape’, additional compliance costs for industry and a higher level of intrusion into the commercial operations of the industry – whether this is a proportionate response is a question that the Parliament will need to consider in consultation with industry,” Mr Stanton said.

In a statement released today, the Attorney-General’s Department said the new laws would “only be used as a last resort, to protect the national interest”.

This article is brought to you by Enex TestLab, content directors for CSO Australia.

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