The Australian police get new hacking powers with the latest legislation that allows them to target suspected criminals online.
According to the legislation passed by the country’s parliament with bipartisan support, the Australian Federal Police and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission will literally be allowed to hack into suspected criminals online.
The Australian Senate introduced the Identify and Disrupt bill on August 25, introducing three new warrants which allow law enforcement authorities to take unprecedented action against suspected cybercriminals.
This will authorize the police to hack the suspected criminal’s personal computers and networks, seize control of their online accounts and identities and disrupt their data.
The latest expansion of power given to the law enforcement agencies has received a good response from the government and opposition. While Karen Andrews, Home Affairs Minister, praised the introduction of the bill saying, “Under our changes, the AFP will have more tools to pursue organized crime gangs to keep drugs off our street and out of our community, and those who commit the most heinous crimes against children.”
On the other hand, Senator Lidia Thorpe of the minor party The Greens slammed the bill for hastening Australia’s march down the path to becoming a “surveillance state:”
She further said, “In effect, this Bill would allow spy agencies to modify, copy, or delete your data with a data disruption warrant; collect intelligence on your online activities with a network activity warrant; also they can take over your social media and other online accounts and profiles with an account takeover warrant.”
She finally concluded by saying, “What’s worse, the data disruption and network activity warrant could be issued by a member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal […] It is outrageous that these warrants won’t come from a judge of a superior court.”
The legislation was approved after going through 60 amendments made after recommendations to make changes were made by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS). 23 out of the 33 security committee’s 33 suggestions were taken into consideration.
The latest amendments will further strengthen protections for journalists, and sunset the expanded powers after five years. Though the legislation excluded the judges from exclusively approving the calls for warrants.
Also, the PJCIS recommended issuance of warrants be restricted to offenses against national security including money laundering, serious narcotics, cybercrime, weapons and criminal association offenses, and crimes against humanity. The final bill does not include amendments that reduce the scope of offenses in this way.
According to Tim Wilson, Shadow assistant minister of cybersecurity, the PJCIS’ rejected recommendations as offering “an important constraint” on authorities exercising the new powers.
He said, “While we support the bill […] safeguards in this bill could go further, particularly in relation to the offenses this bill applies to.”
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