jesse reynolds on Mon, 23 Aug 1999 01:20:54 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: <nettime> FBI wants to hack your PC - so does ASIO...

Australian Broadcasting Corporation, August 1999

ASIO seeks hi-tech surveillance powers

Adapted for News Online from a Lateline story by Suzanne Smith broadcast
on July 28, 1999.

Australia's Security Intelligence Organisation, ASIO, wants new powers to
allow it to hack into computers and tap into people's tax records. 

The ASIO Legislation Amendment Bill, now before Parliament, has not yet
provoked much public debate, despite the wide range of new powers the
organisation is seeking. 

The Bill includes: 

The power to hack into targeted computers for information and to add,
delete, or alter data in that computer.  The power to access the
confidential tax files of targeted individuals or companies and pass on
that information to unspecified third parties.  The power to access the
international financial trading records of their targets.  And the power
to contract out agents to do commercial business. 

ASIO's supporters say the increasing technological sophistication of
criminals and terrorists make the changes vital. 

Dr Nicholas Chantler was the head of security with the Australian Army and
is now a senior employee of one of the world's largest private security
firms, the Control Risks Group. 

He says ASIO needs the powers just to keep up. 

"It is well known that there is a range of programs available on Internet
that will allow you to conduct your own surveillance," he said. 

Dr Chantler has developed commercially-available computer programs for
monitoring people. Surveillance software can draw a picture of a target's
life if given basic information such as phone and credit card records. 

He says malicious computer hackers also have access to other powerful

"By using this Back Orifice program, I can access someone else's computer
on the other side of the world, I can access somebody in the next office
and I can see what they've got on their computer," he said. 

"If the computer is equipped with a sound card and a video camera, I can
turn them on and off as I wish to be able to hear what is being said in
the room." 

Civil libertarians are not convinced ASIO needs the extended powers. 

Kim Heitman, the president of online civil liberties group Electronic
Frontiers Australia, says it is not fully understood just how much the
extended powers would affect the average person on the street. 

He says the changes give ASIO unsurpassed surveillance of computer
activity and records. 

"They will have access to our tax and financial records, which the average
person couldn't access. 

"It is a very dangerous proposition to allow an ASIO agent to set up a
stream of data from that computer...computers can sometime have more than
one user and we need to look at whether the security of one person is
being compromised by a single act, innocent people are drawn into a
surveillance operation," Mr Heitman said. 

"These powers under the new ASIO bill are very extensive. They enable an
ASIO agent to go into anybody's computer at any time and alter data in
that computer." 

Gordon Cooper, president of the Tax Institute, also wants the legislation
withdrawn and tightened to avoid privacy breaches. 

"They [ASIO] would have access to how much you are paid, what other income
you might have, details of your personal circumstances whether you have
been investigated or subject to an audit, stuff you do not want put in the
newspapers," Mr Cooper said. 

"ASIO can simply can go to the Commissioner and say, 'we want to look at
Gordon Cooper's tax file'." 

Attorney-General Darryl Williams says ASIO needs the powers to do its job
and should be trusted with the powers. 

He said ASIO would need a warrant for searches of tax files and personal

"I have great confidence in ASIO -- there have been very few incidents
where anything has reflected badly on ASIO," Mr Williams said. 

     Jesse Reynolds, Virtual Artists Pty Ltd
     For some reason I'm in Adelaide
     Phone 0416 158 494

#  distributed via nettime-l: no commercial use without permission of author
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  un/subscribe: and
# "un/subscribe nettime-l you@address" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: <>