[ISN] Secret plan for spies to bug PCs

From: mea culpa (jerichoat_private)
Date: Tue Jan 12 1999 - 19:32:30 PST

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    Forwarded From: William Knowles <erehwonat_private>
    Originally From: Julian Assange <proffat_private>
    Originally To: aucryptoat_private
    Secret plan for spies to bug PCs
    By DAN TEBBUTT [The Australian]
    PERSONAL computers would become police spy stations under secret proposals
    put to the Federal Government by a former deputy director of ASIO. 
    The Australian Federal Police, ASIO and the National Crime Authority would
    be empowered to alter software to turn PCs into covert listening devices,
    according to the 1996 report by one-time spy chief Gerald Walsh. 
    The report also recommends changes to the Commonwealth Crimes Act to allow
    police and government investigators to hack into computer systems for
    While Mr Walsh called for public discussion of his proposals, the report
    was withdrawn by the Attorney-General's Department. But a copy of the
    96-page document was obtained last week by Internet privacy campaigners
    Electronic Frontiers Australia and released to The Australian. 
    A spokesman for Attorney-General Daryl Williams confirmed last night that
    Mr Walsh's recommendations were under discussion but the report was "just
    one element" of policy being considered. 
    He would not say whether the controversial recommendations would be acted
    on through legislation. 
    Mr Walsh warns that widespread use of PC-based data scrambling is a big
    concern for law enforcement. 
    Criminals were already using computer encryption - programs that encode
    data so it cannot be intercepted - to prevent police from monitoring phone
    calls and e-mail. 
    Widespread encryption to scramble sensitive data would make crimes harder
    to prove in court, Mr Walsh warns. 
    "The principle of non self-incrimination may well represent the polite end
    of the possible range of responses," the report says. 
    Mr Walsh's plan would clear the way for police to eavesdrop on computer
    conversations at the source. 
    A "target computer may be converted into a listening device" that could
    seek out passwords and other private communications without the PC owner's
    EFA spokesman Greg Taylor said authorities might set up Trojan horse
    software that would record all PC activity, including passwords and
    e-mail, before encryption. 
    "If you have access to someone's PC and you change their software you can
    do anything you want," said Mr Taylor. 
    "If it's connected to a network such as the Internet the PC could transmit
    data to another site." 
    Australian Council for Civil Liberties president Terry O'Gorman said the
    proposals would be a worrying extension to police wiretap powers which
    were already over-used. 
    "We are concerned about the low level of protection in relation to current
    judicial warrants for telephone eavesdropping," Mr O'Gorman said. 
    Labor information technology spokeswoman Senator Kate Lundy said "the
    whole issue of encryption is being used as a lever to justify further
    invasions of privacy". 
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