Posted October 25, 2018 07:08:33More than 60,000 inmates are using encrypted messaging apps, according to the Australian Federal Police, with some prisoners even using encrypted phone calls.
In a recent survey, 73 per cent of those surveyed said they would be comfortable using an encrypted app, with many of the most popular apps including WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram.
The police survey of more than 1,500 people in prisons and local jails across the country was carried out by the Federal Government’s National Communications Technology Alliance.
“More than half of the respondents in the survey said they had received an encrypted message in the past week using the encrypted messaging app WhatsApp,” the report said.
Encryption has also become popular with inmates.
“The majority of respondents in this survey said that they have used encrypted messaging services such as Signal and WhatsApp on at least one occasion,” the Federal Police report said, adding that some inmates had been using encrypted messages on WhatsApp and Signal.
Some inmates also use encrypted phone numbers, with a quarter using an “unsubscribe” option on their WhatsApp messages.
This could be due to concerns about jail staff tracking inmates using these numbers.
“We have heard anecdotal evidence of some correctional staff monitoring the use of encrypted messaging for inmates,” the police report said of the use by prisoners.
Most of the encrypted apps that are available to prisoners are for Apple’s iOS and Android operating systems.
One of the major challenges for the Australian Government in the fight against the spread of the so-called “superbug” is that many prisoners have encrypted phones that are locked in their cells, preventing the authorities from accessing them.
But the Federal police report found that the majority of those using the apps are inmates who are not incarcerated but have previously been convicted of offences.
A total of 45 per cent had previously committed a crime and 25 per cent were sentenced to a jail term.
“Almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of those currently using these apps said they do not plan to use them again, and almost half (47 per cent), or 41 per cent, said they are unlikely to use any apps in the future,” the bureau report said in a statement.
Inmate phone calls are currently monitored by the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), but the bureau is looking at “other ways of accessing the communication space” in the prisons, which would include using “smart devices and other devices”.
“The CSE is working closely with the Department of Corrections to explore this further and is also developing guidelines for jail staff to monitor inmate communication,” it said.”CSE is also working closely in relation to the issue of prisoners using encrypted communications to ensure that the communications between inmates are secure, secure communication and not susceptible to misuse.”
The Federal police has said that it would be willing to work with prison authorities to make sure the use and distribution of encryption software is not used as a tool to further criminalise prisoners.
“While there may be some cases where it is the case that there may need to be some changes to the approach that we take, that is a matter for the Department and not for us,” the chief commissioner said.
Topics:disputes-and-conflict-and-(human-rights)law-crime-and/or-justice,government-and.indigenous-aboriginal-and%E2%80%99s-prime-time,police,security-intelligence,australiaFirst posted October 26, 2018 08:03:24More stories from New South Wales