Spy Agency ASIO Wants Powers to Hack Into Personal Computers

from heraldsun.com.au: Spy agency ASIO wants to hack into Australians’ personal computers and commandeer their smartphones to transmit viruses to terrorists.

The Attorney-General’s Department is pushing for new powers for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to hijack the computers of suspected terrorists.

But privacy groups are attacking the ”police state” plan as ”extraordinarily broad and intrusive”.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General’s Department said it was proposing
that ASIO be authorised to ”use a third party computer for the specific
purpose of gaining access to a target computer”.

”The purpose
of this power is to allow ASIO to access the computer of suspected
terrorists and other security interests,” he told News Limited.

would be used) in extremely limited circumstances and only when
explicitly approved by the Attorney-General through a warrant.

”Importantly, the warrant would not authorise ASIO to obtain intelligence material from the third party computer.”

Attorney-General’s Department refused to explain yesterday how
third-party computers would be used, ”as this may divulge operationally
sensitive information and methods used by ASIO in sensitive national
security investigations.”

But cyber specialist Andrew Pam, a board member of the Electronic
Frontiers lobby group, predicted ASIO could copy the tactics of criminal
hackers to seize control of target computers.

personal computers might be used to send a malicious email with a virus
attached, or to load ”malware” onto a website frequently visited by
the target

”This stuff goes on already in the commercial and criminal world,
and security agencies could be using the same techniques to commandeer
people’s computers and use them to monitor a target,” Mr Pam said.

”Once you get control of a computer and connect to their network you can do whatever you want.”

ASIO Act now bans spies from doing anything that ”adds, deletes or
alters data or interferes with, interrupts or obstructs the lawful use
of the target computer by other persons”.

But ASIO wants the ban
lifted, so Attorney-General Nicola Roxon can issue a warrant for spies
to secretly intercept third-party computers to disrupt their target

The departmental spokesman said the federal government had made ”no decisions” about whether to grant ASIO the new power.

government would first consider advice from the federal Parliamentary
Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, which is reviewing
national security legislation.

Victoria’s acting Privacy
Commissioner, Dr Anthony Bendall, has told the committee that ASIO’s
proposed new powers are ”characteristic of a police state.”

access a third party’s computer, which has no connection with the
target, is extraordinarily broad and intrusive,” his submission states.

But the Attorney-General’s Department insists that ASIO will not examine the content of third-party computers.

use of the third party computer is essentially like using a third party
premises to gain access to the premises to be searched, where direct
access is not possible,” it states in response to questions from the

”It involves no power to search or conduct surveillance on the third party.”

department said technological advances had made it ”increasingly
difficult” for ASIO to execute search warrants directly on target
computers, ”particularly where a person of interest is security

Australian Council for Civil Liberties president
Terry O’Gorman yesterday said ASIO should have to seek a warrant from an
independent judge, rather than a politician.

He warned that ASIO
might be able to spy on individuals – including journalists protecting a
whistleblower – by tapping into their computers

”I’m concerned they will access all sorts of information on a computer that has nothing to do with terrorism,” he said

Leave a Reply