If you’ve ever watched an episode of Black Mirror, you know the possible risks and dangers that could arise from cyber-technology. With unanticipated twists and turns, the popular Netflix sci-fi series highlights the fatal impact of hacks, cyber-attacks, and surveillance cameras. In an age of cloud computing, proxy servers, and encryptions, serious damage and privacy breaches could happen in a matter of seconds.
And soon, this may become a reality.
The Morrison Government has proposed to broaden the targets of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) to crackdown on domestic “offensive cyber” operations. However, the ASD has opposed the new proposal and has wanted to keep its aim on foreign targets, as revealed by The Sydney Morning Herald.
The new proposal could also provide ASD with access to networks of large Australian power, water, telecommunications, and other infrastructure companies, to fight foreign cyber-attacks. Disturbingly, the scope and limitations of these powers remain unclear.
The Proposed Australian Signals Directorate Changes
Currently, the ASD carries out “offensive” cyber operations against overseas threats, such as terror threats or hackers in inaccessible legal jurisdictions. However, the new proposal would allow ASD to work closely with Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) and the Australian Federal Police (AFP). This would be in order to disrupt domestic computer networks that are driving criminal activity. This may include:
- child exploitation,
- terrorism propaganda,
- or drug smuggling.
Raid on News Corp Journalist’s Home
Last month, police raided the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst. This was after she reported on a confidential government document that proposed unprecedented powers to Australia’s cyber spies.
The story, published in April 2018, leaked details of the internal document, which stated new powers would “proactively disrupt and covertly remove” onshore threats by “hacking into critical infrastructure.” In what News Corp called a “dangerous act of intimidation,” the Federal police confirmed the execution of the search warrant. They said it was part of an “investigation into alleged unauthorised disclosure of national security information.”
Following on from this incident, national security officials tried to reassure people that the expanded role of the ASD would never amount to spying on Australians. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who supports the proposal, said cybercrime needed a national conversation around how to counter the problem. As our country appears to be turning into one Big Brother Orwellian state, it is frightening to think of a day when our government can spy on Australian civilians.
If you’re charged with cybercrime or monitored online by law enforcement
O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors can provide you with advice on your legal options if you suspect you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with a computer offence or cybercrime. A computer offence is a crime directed at the unauthorised use of computers and other devices. The laws in relation to computer offences regulate the possession, modification, access and impairment of data and information held in a computer and other storage devices. Read more about cyber laws here.
Call O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors on (02) 9261 4281 to book a free initial consultation with one of our criminal solicitors.