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Australian Government Gets Broad Hacking Powers

1 December 1999

Australia's internal security service ASIO (Australian security intelligence organization) has received increased powers to hack into computers, monitor online communications, copy files and alter software on computers after the ASIO Amendment Bill was passed on Monday.

The ASIO Legislation Amendment Bill 1999, introduced in March (Newsbytes, March 25, 1999), will permit security officers to hack into a computer if "there are reasonable grounds for believing that access to data held in a particular computer (the target computer) will substantially assist the collection of intelligence that is important in relation to security."

An access warrant permits ASIO to use computers, phone companies and telecommunications equipment to to gain access to a remote or networked computer. Once in, the ASIO hackers will be allowed to copy, add, delete or alter any data in the target computer that is relevant to the security matter.

When they leave security officers will be allowed to cover up the fact that they hacked into the system and will not be subject to the Crimes Act which forbids computer hacking in Australia.

The legislation came as part of the Walsh Report, a secret 1996 review of Australian national security arrangements.

The report was kept secret by the government until a copy was obtained by online privacy and freedom of speech group Electronic Frontiers Australia. The group said that the laws were dangerous as they ignored the privacy rights of the country's citizens and held the potential for security officers to doctor electronic evidence.

Reported by Newsbytes.com, www.newsbytes.com.

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