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Experts say efforts to get technology and social media firms to cooperate with the authorities in decrypting communications will be hard to achieve. The Australian government wants smartphone companies and social media platforms to ensure terrorists cannot hide behind anonymous posts or encrypted messages, but it has not said how or when.

In his recent national security statement to parliament, Australia’s prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said traffic on encrypted messaging platforms was difficult for security agencies to decrypt.

Most of the major platforms of this kind are based in the US, where a strong libertarian tradition resists government access to private communications, as the FBI found when Apple would not help unlock the iPhone of the dead San Bernardino terrorist,” he said. “The privacy of a terrorist can never be more important than public safety.”

James Turner, cyber security analyst at advisory and consulting company IBRS, added: “You can’t build crumple zones into encryption systems because it puts up big neon signs saying there’s a vulnerability.”

Instead of trying to gain access to the encrypted communications, Turner said governments should “aggressively target the endpoints”, especially as services such as Apple’s iMessage were being re-engineered to make encrypted content inaccessible to even Apple itself.

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