Threat from foreign spies to surpass terrorism, ASIO warns

Asia's Tech News Daily

Australia’s domestic intelligence agency is warning foreign spies are behind “sophisticated and wide-ranging” attempts to interfere with the country’s affairs.

Agents from multiple rival powers are harnessing technology in their espionage, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) said in a report presented to Federal Parliament yesterday.

ASIO director-general Mike Burgess says in the document spying cases would surpass terrorist threats in the coming years.

© AAP ASIO director-general Mike Burgess is highlighting the threat of foreign spies from multiple powers.

“Foreign spies are attempting to obtain classified information about Australia’s trade relationships, defence and intelligence capabilities,” he said.

“They are seeking to develop targeted relationships with current and former politicians, and current and former security clearance holders.”

And foreign agents are targeting migrant communities in Australia, and in some cases physically threatening them.

Risk of sabotage

Mr Burgess also said foreign agents could be preparing to “sabotage” the country’s critical infrastructure.

“I remain concerned about the potential for Australia’s adversaries to pre-position malicious code in critical infrastructure, particularly in areas such as telecommunications and energy,” he said.

© AAP Foreign agents could be preparing to sabotage key infrastructure through cyber crime, ASIO warns.

“Such cyber-enabled activities could be used to damage critical networks in the future.”

The Federal Government will today introduce amendments to its controversial critical infrastructure bill.

Operators of critical infrastructure would have to report cyber attacks within 72 hours of being hacked under the proposed legislation.

Terrorism threat remains

Mr Burgess stressed he did not want to “downplay the threat of terrorism”.

“Twenty four convicted terrorism offenders are eligible for release over the next 10 years, and some battle-hardened foreign fighters may yet return to Australia,” he said.

“During 2020-21, these investigations approached 50 per cent of our onshore priority counterterrorism caseload.”

Mr Burgess says he is particularly concerned about the continuing radicalisation of young men in Australia.

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