Hardware and Software Security: AFP and ACIC Persist in Employing Account Takeover and Network Activity Capabilities

Two Australian law enforcement agencies, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), used the warrant powers granted to them in 2021 to access devices and manipulate or delete data in their second year of operation.

The AFP and ACIC were granted powers to take over online accounts and disrupt data through changes to surveillance laws in August 2021 (source). In their first year of operation, these powers were utilized six times (source). In the second year, similar levels of usage were observed, with two out of three warrant types being called upon (source).

In the period up to June 30, AFP and ACIC did not seek a data disruption warrant, unlike the previous year, where two were sought and granted. However, three network activity warrants were sought and granted, with some of them being extended multiple times. Each warrant has a 90-day usage limit.

“Network activity warrants authorize access to devices used by members of criminal networks and allow for the addition, copying, deletion, or alteration of data to obtain access to data for intelligence purposes on criminal networks operating online,” states the Home Affairs website (source). ACIC’s network activity warrants primarily target serious drug offenses, telecommunications offenses, money laundering offenses, and criminal association and organization offenses. AFP’s warrant also focuses on serious drug offenses, dangerous weapons offenses, money laundering offenses, and criminal association and organization offenses.

Extensions were granted to maximize the opportunities for intelligence collection under network activity warrants and to gain further insights into criminal networks targeting Australia.

While the AFP utilized account takeover warrants in the latest reporting period, the usage of these powers was not mentioned in ACIC’s annual report.

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