Tech company weighs in on encryption and terrorism debate

Tech company weighs in on encryption and terrorism debate

As Australia debates utilising Australian Defence Force personnel in terrorism situations, British Prime Minister Theresa May has put encryption technology on the table as a risk to national security and defence.

Following the terrorist attack in London last week, which saw three men kill seven people and injured many more, May called for an end to "safe spaces" online, and for more measures to regulate cyber space to prevent terrorist attacks.

"We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed. Yet that is precisely what the internet – and the big companies that provide internet-based services – provide," May said in a statement.

But one Israeli encryption company, which recently listed on the ASX, slammed May's statement, saying this will not prevent risks to national security.

"Anything you’re doing on your mobile today or laptop, if government want to watch it, they are able to do it," said Elsight co-founder and chief executive Nir Gabay.

"It doesn’t matter if you use WhatsApp, Telegram or whatever. If government want to intercept your data they can do it.

"I believe governments do it. The UK is no exception."

Gabay put May's comments down to an attempt at making it a political issue, from fear of the influence of social media.

"Facebook is a community software. Once there’s a community software like Facebook, it’s very easy for citizens to produce their own propaganda. The ‘Arab Spring’ started with Facebook. You send one message and it can arrive to thousands of people at the same time," Gabay said.

"Look at what happened in Turkey with Recep Erdogan. That was interesting. He used Facetime, he got to all his citizens, and that’s why they couldn’t change the government in Turkey. 

"Facebook and WhatsApp is the new world."

Elsight's entrance into the Australian market coincided with the use of their technology for President Trump's visit to Israel.

Israeli police and security forces used the technology as part of efforts to secure Trump's visit to Israel, including the President's motorcade.

The company understands up to 30 units were used. They were purchased by the security forces as part of a tender won by Elsight late last year.

Gabay said, "There aren't many higher stakes tests of your technology than a presidential motorcade. This experience gives us every confidence in our product going forward."

Elsight said its technology works by splitting the data from a moving vehicle into multiple encrypted channels, be it sim cards, WiFi, LAN or dedicated radio.

If one is intercepted, it's an encrypted piece of an incomplete puzzle. If one fails, the system automatically rebalances to ensure consistent broadcast, which Elsight said makes it very safe and secure.

Beyond Israel and the US, the company also has customers in South Africa, Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia.

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