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  • Police are seen outside one of the houses involved in counter-terrorism raids across the north-western suburbs in Melbourne 19/11/2018 20:32.

    Police are seen outside one of the houses involved in counter-terrorism raids across the north-western suburbs in Melbourne 19/11/2018 20:32. | Photo: Reuters

Published 20 November 2018

Australia: Law enforcement prevents an alleged terrorist attack in the context of the controversial move to enhance 'lawful' encrypted data access from social networks. 

Three men allegedly preparing to attack a gathering in Melbourne were arrested by police.

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“We now have sufficient evidence to act in relation to preventing a terrorist attack,” Graham Ashton, Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, told reporters.

Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, Graham Ashton reported the three young men were Australian nationals; ages 30, 26 and 21, who were targeting a mass gathering.

He added they had attempted to obtain semi-automatic rifles to carry out the attack.

Police are engaged in the interception of  17,000 phone calls and 10,500 messages exchanged between the group, which they have collected in the process of arresting the suspects.

The Ministry of home affairs of Australia has been seeking to enhance the legal framework to access private encrypted messages.

According to the federal police, over 90 percent of all the data that is legally intercepted uses encryption.

In a related matter, on September 10, a draft of the Assistance and Access bill 2018 was released. The proposed law would give law enforcement winder ranging powers to require information from communication outfits such as Telstra and Facebook.

“It really is very dangerous and it really does threaten the safe and proper operating of the internet,” says Tom Sulston, a software consultant and director of Australian lobby group Digital Rights Watch, on the issue of whether enhancing interception legislation is in violation of citizen’s rights.

“It represents a gross overreach of government power into the digital space. It is a huge erosion of individuals’ ability to communicate privately, and for companies’ and software development organizations’ ability to make good security systems. This bill is a real threat to the underpinnings of a functioning digital society,” went on to say, Sulston.

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