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After banning working cryptography and raiding whistleblowers, Australia's spies ban speakers from national infosec conference

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Australian politics are a revolting mess of unstable governments dominated by xenophobic, climate-denying far-right oligarchs, and the only check on their power is the fact that Australian governments are so riven by internal strife and unhinged authoritarianism that they tend to collapse on a quarterly basis, triggering new elections and/or leadership contests. But the Aussie oligarch class are persistent: sometimes, they can actually get policies and laws that suit their needs enacted, as happened in late 2018, when the country banned working cryptography, or last June, when cops and spies staged a series of armed raids on journalists who'd reported on leaks that revealed official corruption. So it's perhaps not surprising that the country's annual flagship cybersecurity conference, the annual conference of the Australian Information Security Association, has become mired in a censorship scandal. This year, AISA opted to co-organise its annual conference with the Australian Cyber Security Centre, a creature of the same spy agencies that led the crackdown on whistleblowers in June. But the ACSC has a very different set of priorities to AISA, which is why it insisted on the cancellation of multiple invited talks at the show, including Thomas Drake, a celebrated NSA whistleblower who was scheduled to give a talk on "the golden age of surveillance, both government and corporate"; and the University of Melbourne's Dr Suelette Dreyfus whose cancelled lecture was on "anonymous whistleblowing technologies like SecureDrop and how they reduce corruption in countries where that is a problem." Both speakers have posted their slides, and Bruce Schneier, who gave a keynote at the conference, opened his talk by reading the URLs aloud. Read the rest

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