Wednesday, 25 August 2021
Media release

New powers to combat crime on the dark web

​Legislation passed today will significantly boost the capacity of our law enforcement agencies to identify and disrupt serious criminal activity occurring online, and keep Australians safe.

The Surveillance Legislation Amendment (Identify and Disrupt) Bill 2020 introduces three new powers for the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission to modify and delete data to frustrate offending, collect intelligence on criminal networks, and take control of alleged offenders’ online accounts.

Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon Karen Andrews MP, said the changes will ensure Australia’s law enforcement agencies have the tools they need to keep pace with technology to continue to keep our community safe.

“The arrest of more than 290 people as part of Operation Ironside earlier this year confirmed the persistent and ever evolving threat of transnational, serious and organised crime – and the reliance of these networks on the dark web and anonymising technology to conceal their offending,” Minister Andrews said.

“In Operation Ironside, ingenuity and world-class capability gave our law enforcement an edge. This Bill is just one more step the Government is taking to ensure our agencies maintain that edge.

”Under our changes the AFP will have more tools to pursue organised crime gangs to keep drugs off our street and out of our community, and those who commit the most heinous crimes against children.”

The Bill introduces three powers that will substantially boost the capacity of the AFP and ACIC to fight cyber-enabled serious crime:

  • Network activity warrants will enable the AFP and the ACIC to collect intelligence on the most harmful criminal networks operating online, including on the dark web and when using anonymising technologies.
  • Data disruption warrants will enable the AFP and the ACIC to disrupt serious criminality online – authorising the AFP and the ACIC to modify data belonging to individuals suspected of criminal activity, to frustrate the commission of serious offences such as the distribution of child exploitation material.
  • An account takeover power enabling the AFP and the ACIC to take control of a person’s online account for the purposes of gathering evidence about criminal activity, to be used in conjunction with other investigatory powers. Right now, law enforcement agencies rely on a person consenting to the takeover of their account.

The powers will be overseen by the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security to ensure agency use of the powers is appropriate, and will be subject to review by the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS).