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Australia spy chief warns of 'unprecedented' foreign espionage threat

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Australia spy chief warns of 'unprecedented' foreign espionage threat

By Colin Packham

 

2020-02-25T004233Z_1_LYNXNPEG1O013_RTROPTP_4_AUSTRALIA-SECURITY.JPG

FILE PHOTO: A man types on a computer keyboard in Warsaw in this February 28, 2013 illustration file picture. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

 

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia is under an "unprecedented" threat of foreign espionage and interference, one of the country's most senior spy chiefs said in a rare speech, citing the case of a "sleeper agent" who spent years building business links.

 

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) Director-General Mike Burgess said several nations were working hard to influence lawmakers, government officials, media figures, business leaders and academics.

 

"The level of threat we face from foreign espionage and interference activities is currently unprecedented," Burgess said at ASIO headquarters in Canberra on Monday evening as he unveiled the agency's annual threat assessment.

 

"It is higher now, than it was at the height of the Cold War."

 

Burgess did not identify the countries infiltrating Australia, a staunch ally of the United States. ASIO is Australia's domestic intelligence agency.

 

Reuters reported in September that Australia's intelligence agencies concluded China was responsible for a cyber-attack on the Australian parliament and three largest political parties just months before a general election in May 2019.

 

China, which is Australia's largest trading partner, has denied responsibility for the attack. Australia decided not to reveal the identity of the attackers in order to protect its trading relationship with China, sources familiar with the decision told Reuters in September.

 

"I don't care what country it is we're talking about, whether it's China or Russia or Iran - if people pose a threat to our country, they will be dealt with according to the level of that threat," Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday when asked about China.

 

SLEEPER AGENT

Burgess said Australia was being targeted in part because of its strategic position and alliances and its leadership in science and technology.

 

He said the sleeper agent from an unnamed country laid dormant for several years, building business and community links before he started to supply information about expatriate dissidents. That information, Burgess said, was used to harass the dissidents in Australia and their relatives overseas.

 

Visiting academics and scientists had been infiltrating universities to collection intelligence information, while foreign spies had entered Australia with the intention of setting up sophisticated hacking infrastructure, he added.

 

"The intent is to engineer fundamental shifts in Australia’s position in the world, not just to collect intelligence or use us as a potential ‘back-door’ into our allies and partners," he said.

 

Australia's leading universities last year agreed to more transparency in financial dealings with other countries and to share cyber intelligence with security agencies in a bid to curb foreign interference.

 

Burgess said the threat of home-grown right-wing extremists had also increased.

 

"In suburbs around Australia, small cells regularly meet to salute Nazi flags, inspect weapons, train in combat and share their hateful ideology," he said.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; editing by Philippa Fletcher and Jane Wardell)

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2020-02-25

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5 hours ago, Somtamnication said:

Don't tell Trump; he will break all diplomatic contact with you, Mr. Prime Minister.

Don't worry he is in India at the moment and trying to pronounce

the names of Indian cricket players. (does he know what cricket is?)

https://youtu.be/NHoYIpRcqBU

  • Haha 2

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Australia has been quick to follow the lead of the US and a number of other countries, in banning Chinese telecoms giant Huawei from involvement in their 5G roll-out because of security fears.

 

They seem to have overlooked the fact that, as Huawei has been at pains to point out in its protests about being excluded from the multi-billion dollar party, most of equipment used for the fifth generation telecoms equipment is made in China - and can easily be doctored with integral spying software.

 

Anti-5G campaigners tend to concentrate on the inherent health risks associated with the powerful new technology, while national security and personal privacy are arguably even bigger reasons for concern.

Edited by Krataiboy
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It usually either the USA, China or Russia in the dirty spy tricks, game.....in this case one cannot imagine any interest from the US or Russia and definately not MI6 !!! , so once again it could be the chinese upto their dirty tricks

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China is doing this worldwide-in every area of all free societies-pretty much common knowledge.  Russia, North Korea, Iran...as well.

Free countries are not exempt, but have many more limits because they are tracked down easily in a closed society 

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8 minutes ago, Sujo said:

Oz is part of the 5 eyes so it may not only be oz secrets being stolen. Whoever is doing it seems to think its worthwhile.

Luckily none of our five eye allies are doing things to compromise the system....oh wait, <deleted> BORIS!!!

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9 hours ago, ezzra said:

i.e China....and with hundred of thousands of Chinese nationals deeply in bedded in all walks of lives in Australia and whereby every Chinese national is a potential spy no wonder why...

Check your history about the CIA involvement in the dismissal of the Whitlam government.

This goes for all of the other posters as the multi quote did not work.

Edited by GreasyFingers
multi quote did not work, or was it me.
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9 hours ago, Somtamnication said:

Don't tell Trump; he will break all diplomatic contact with you, Mr. Prime Minister.

That would be nice 

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