Monthly Archives: September 2014

iPhone encryption won’t stop police getting your data, experts say

Apple may not be able to access your data, but that doesn't mean it's secure, experts say.image

Apple may not be able to access your data, but that doesn’t mean it’s secure, experts say. Photo: Mashable / Getty Images

This post was originally published on Mashable.

Last week, Apple announced that starting with iOS 8, the company would no longer help police get some of the most sensitive data on your phone, including messages, emails, contacts and call history.

And it’s not that it doesn’t want to anymore, it’s that now Apple says it can no longer do it — even if it wanted to.

“Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,” the company said in its new privacy policy.

Many, including privacy advocates, rejoiced at the news — but some police officers are not that happy. And although there are still other ways cops can get their hands on your iPhone data, authorities are still complaining.

“It’s definitely going to impact investigations, there’s no doubt about that,” Dennis Dragos, a former New York Police Department detective who worked for 11 years in the computer crimes squad, told Mashable.

“Detectives are trained to follow down every single lead, follow every possible trail until you get to the resolution of your investigation,” he continued.

“This is now a dead end. You’re closing a door that was available before.”

Dragos is not the only one who thinks that way.

On Thursday, FBI Director James Comey himself said that he was “very concerned” about Apple’s decision.

John Escalante, the chief of detectives for Chicago’s police department, said that because of this change, “Apple will become the phone of choice for the paedophile.”

For some law enforcement officials, this could even become a matter of life and death. In a Washington Post op-ed, Ronald T. Hosko, the former assistant director at the FBI Criminal Investigative Division, complained that Apple’s new privacy stance, later followed by Android, will “protect many thousands of criminals who seek to do us great harm, physically or financially.”

“[Criminals’] phones contain contacts, texts, and geo-tagged data that can help police track down accomplices,” Hosko wrote. “These new rules will make it impossible for us to access that information. They will create needless delays that could cost victims their lives.”

But privacy advocates and security researchers are sceptical.

“I think there’s a lot of kicking and screaming over this but cops have been able to do their job just fine for the past 200 years in this country, without having access to people’s personal iPhone,” Jonathan Zdiarski, a forensic and security researcher who has worked as a consultant to police agencies, told Mashable. “Criminals are just as stupid today as they always have been and they’re going to leave traces and evidence in a number of places.”

Moreover, despite all the controversy, there are actually still a few ways for the police to get at least some data from an iPhone with iOS 8 and protected by a passcode. Below, we’ve broken down some of the ways cops can still put their hands on your digital belongings.

Getting your iCloud backup

If police officers can’t get the data that’s locally stored on an iPhone, they might still be able to get it from the cloud.

Apple prompts users to back up their iDevices to iCloud, and the data there can be obtained by law enforcement agents with a search warrant. Yes, iCloud backups are encrypted, but they’re encrypted with a key in Apple’s possession, so Apple can be legally required to turn the backups over if served with a valid legal request, as Micah LeeFirst Look‘s technologist and security expert, explained.

With iCloud, police can potentially get any data from your phone, unless you turn off the automatic backup, or you only backup certain data.

Using forensic tools

Forensic tools are still a great way to get some data out of your iPhone. If the police arrests you and gets both your phone and a computer that you used to connect with your phone using iTunes — a “paired device” — they can dump some data out of it bypassing your passcode using existing forensic tools, as Zdiarski noted in a recent blog post.

In this case, the passcode doesn’t protect you, because Apple has designed this system to allow you to access some data on your phone using iTunes or Xcode without unlocking your device.

The caveat here is that only some data is available in this scenario. In particular, any data from third party applications such as Facebook, Twitter and Evernote; photos, videos and recordings; and iTunes media such as books and podcasts. But data from native iOS applications like iMessages, emails or calls is out of reach.

To prevent this from happening, as Zdiarski notes, then you can “pair lock” your iPhone so that it doesn’t pair with any new computer, preventing police computers from “pairing” with your iPhone.

Without the ability to impersonate a trusted computer, and with a locked phone protected with the passcode, “law enforcement at this point doesn’t seem to really have any options,” Zdiarski said.

Getting your iTunes backup

Another target for police officers is the iTunes backup on your computer. If you back up your iPhone to your computer with iTunes, a police officer that gets his hands on your computer can get all the data that you have last backed up.

“Data is still available, as long as iTunes and iCloud reign,” Lee Reiber, the vice president for mobile solutions at forensic firm AccessData, told Mashable.

In this scenario, only a backup password can stop the police, and in that case, it better be a good password or it might be vulnerable to brute forcing — the automated process of guessing all possible passwords until you get the right one. Or, they might just force you to give it up.

Forcing you to give up your passcode

Having a passcode protect your phone is great — unless someone else knows that passcode. And here’s a legal caveat many might not be aware of: the police might be able to compel you to give up your passcode, which renders any sophisticated technological protections you might have on your phone completely moot.

The case law on this issue is still contradictory, and it has only dealt with computers (though it’s hard to see the difference between an encrypted computer and an encrypted phone).

But in some cases someone who refuses to give up her password can be held in contempt of court, which can even lead to jail, as reported by Wired.

In the US, a defendant can plead the fifth and refuse to testify against himself and self-incriminate. Some think that handing out a password to authorities amounts to self-incrimination and should not be accepted, but others disagree.

Breaking TouchID

Where there seems to be more consensus that “pleading the Fifth” won’t get you anywhere is if the cops ask for your fingerprint.

Fingerprints, and other physical objects like actual keys, have traditionally not been considered protected by the Fifth Amendment. So if you lock your iPhone with TouchID, the cops can legally compel you to unlock it, as internet and privacy lawyer Marcia Hoffman explained last year.

And if you refuse, police officers might be able to lift your fingerprint from a surface — say your computer screen — and unlock it themselves.

As various online videos have shown, it’s possible to break into an iPhone 6 with a dummy fingerprint just as it was with the 5S.

Other options

Outside of these scenarios, options for law enforcement, at this point, are limited. A good old brute force attack, where you guess every possible passcode combination is technically possible, but there are no forensic tools that can make this automated, both Zdiarski and Reiber said.

Technically, Apple could brute force a four digit passcode if the police asked the company to do it, but it seems unlikely that Apple would do something like that after trumpeting that they wouldn’t help police unlock phones anymore.

Doing it manually is obviously a daunting task, as there are 10,000 combinations of 4 digit passcodes, and iPhones disable after six wrong attempts.

And if police are simply looking for call records, they can always request them from phone carriers, or perhaps plant malware on your phone.

As for the iPhone, it might be harder now, but forensic firms and law enforcement hackers will now look for new places and holes to get data.

“As secure as the device can be, there’s always going to be some vulnerability that can be located and exploited,” Reiber said. “That’s what it really is, cat and mouse.”

1…’Poor law enforcement. They’re going to have to make do with their ability to covertly track you, wiretap you and hack into your computer.’

2…’With iOS 8, Apple won’t be able to unlock iPhones and iPads for law enforcement 

3…’If smartphone encryption prevents the police from solving crimes, how did they solve them before smartphones were invented? Anyone remember?’

Stephane Chazelas: the man who found the web’s ‘most dangerous’ internet security bug

Stephane Chazelas, the man who found the  Shell Shock  bug image (2)

Stephane Chazelas, the man who found the “Shell Shock” bug. Photo: Jo Gay/Fairfax Graphics/Chealer/Wikimedia Commons

It was a bug that lurked in software found on hundreds of millions of devices for 21 years, leaving them vulnerable to hackers, who may have known of its existence.

The realisation of the scale and impact of [it] and what I had in my hands was quite scary.

Shell Shock bug finder Stephane Chazelas

Now Stephane Chazelas, an open source software developer living in Britain, is being hailed a hero by security experts and internet users for finding it and causing it to be fixed.

Stephane Chazelas, the man who found the  Shell Shock  bug image

Stephane Chazelas was able to pinpoint a bug that lay undiscovered for 21 years.

Dubbed “Shell Shock”, the bug was found by the 38 year-old Frenchman on the morning of September 12. It was disclosed this week so it could be patched.

Shell Shock enables hackers to remotely exploit a vulnerability found in millions of computers, phones and internet devices, such as laptops, light bulbs, thermostats and industrial control systems. Even Android phones and Mac laptops are affected.

Security experts are already calling its potential impact bigger and more dangerous than Heartbleed, a bug discovered in April.

It has existed in the software since at least 1993 and gone unnoticed.

Hackers began exploiting it on Thursday evening, using fast-moving worm viruses to scan the internet for vulnerable systems and then infect them, researchers said.

Whether intelligence agencies or others knew of  its existence remains unclear and is unlikely to be confirmed. But Ty Miller, of Sydney firm Threat Intelligence, noted reports that the US government allegedly knew about the Heartbleed vulnerability for many years before it was discovered.

“I would be amazed if governments haven’t known about and exploited systems with Shell Shock for years,” he said. .

It was found in “Bash”, a common software component known as a shell in the open source Unix software used by millions of web servers, computers, phones and other internet-connected devices. It allows hackers to take control of a device – such as a web camera or web server – and steal information from it, such as an image or credit card information.

Typical computer users have no need for access to the shell but system administrators and others do. It enables them to issue commands to an operating system without a graphical user interface.

When Mr Chazelas found the bug two weeks ago, he reported it to Chet Ramey, the maintainer of the Bash source code, that night.

It was then reported in secret to a select few internet infrastructure providers and Linux distributors, including Debian, Red Hat, Ubuntu, SuSE and Mandriva. This was co-ordinated by Florian Weimer, a Debian contributor who is alsoon the Red Hat team.

“The realisation of the scale and impact of [it] and what I had in my hands was quite scary,” Mr Chazelas, who works for content distribution network Akamai and found the bug in his personal time, told Fairfax Media.

Asked if he told anyone else about his find, he said only his family. “You don’t want to tell anybody except the persons who need to know,” he said.

“How it’s deployed is far more important than the fix itself. I just told my wife and children that I had found a way to hack into many websites without giving details and that I’d be getting my other 10 minutes of fame soon,” he quipped about his other moment of glory: making it into a local newspaper for riding a unicycle to work.

“We joked about how much I could sell [the bug] to [spy agencies] GCHQ/NSA, or negotiate a pay raise. But in my mind, there’s never been a doubt that the first thing to do was to get it fixed ASAP and minimise the impact. My job as an IT manager is to minimise the risk and put out fires.

“That applies here as well. So I did spend quite some time investigating the bug, the possible ways to exploit it, the possible mitigations [and] ways to detect it [at network or host level] … ”

He said he found the bug after reflecting on an earlier bug he found in Bash a few months ago.

“After some thorough investigation, I reported it with as much information as possible to a few select Linux distribution security lists and Chet Ramey, the Bash maintainer, on September 9,” he said.

“They’ve all worked hard to make sure a patch was ready on as many systems as possible [and select infrastructure providers were notified] by the time the vulnerability was disclosed on the agreed date yesterday [about 2am Thursday AEST]. That was very professionally handled. I believe the impact was about as minimised as could be, and I’m proud to have contributed to that.”

The bug, an error, was introduced by either Chet Ramey or Brian Fox back in 1993, Mr Chazelas said, the maintainers of the source code behind Bash at the time. Both still look after the code today. “In any case, we can hardly blame them for that,” Mr Chazelas said.

Fairfax Media  is seeking comment from Mr Ramey and Mr Fox.

According to Mr Chazelas’ resume, he finished high school in 1993 with honours in maths and science. He completed the equivalent to a Masters of Engineering in and did post high school advanced maths and physics classes in preparation for competitive entrance examinations to French engineering schools.

He likes unicycling, hiking and paragliding, as wells as guitar, juggling, cooking and family life.

He’s worked as a telephone helpdesk support person at Morse Group, at IT consultancy company ALTEN, for Emerson Network Power as an engineer, and as a programmer for Raytheon Systems, which manages the Canadian Automated Air Traffic Control System.

Henry Sapiecha


Why We Should Encrypt Everyone’s Email as security

Ladar Levison is the owner of the encrypted email startup Lavabit. After Edward Snowden’s NSA document leaks last summer, Levison rebuffed government demands to hand over the email service’s private encryption keys—opting to shut it down instead. He spoke about his new project Dark Mail, online privacy, and how encrypting our email helps disassemble today’s unconstitutional surveillance networks.


When we talk about email, how much of our online communications are truly private?


I think everybody today needs to assume that if they’re communicating electronically, somebody is listening. Over the last 20 years we’ve been communicating across the Internet with a level naïve innocence that has been lost forever.

One big issue is that today’s electronic communication systems have gotten so complex that they are all but impossible for private citizens to understand. And that’s because these systems have been built with layer upon layer of complexity. If any of those layers has a vulnerability, an organization with the access and resources of the NSA can exploit it to gain total control of the system. The only question is how difficult it is for them to do so.

Another issue is that while we have the encryption technology to protect email messages, the current state of endpoint security (meaning the security of your individual computer or device) is abysmal—almost laughable to the Tailored Access Operations unit which employs more than 1,000 engineers whose only mission is expanding their exploit catalog. If your device is compromised, it doesn’t matter how strong the encryption is, a snooper will simply steal the keys protecting your messages.


Why should we be so concerned about keeping our email encrypted and private?


For one, privacy is a form of security and protection—an assurance that what we write won’t one day be used against us, to blackmail us into conducting some nefarious deed. I look to history and shudder to think of what Joseph McCarthy, Richard Nixon, or J. Edgar Hoover would have done with the surveillance capabilities of today.

One of our most basic rights as American citizens, as people, is the privacy of our papers—our thoughts in written form. Why should this right be forfeited simply because the thought was typed into a computer and stored in a cloud?

But the most important reason is this: By encrypting our email, we force a potential attacker to break into our devices if they want to read our private messages. That changes the game. Instead of sweeping up everyone’s communications wholesale, without much incremental effort, we force them to pick and choose specific targets. And this would be a huge step towards making unconstitutional surveillance obsolete


Talk to us about Dark Mail, your newest project.


Dark Mail is really an effort to turn the world’s email dark—to make email encryption ubiquitous, universal, and automatic. The simplest explanation of what we’re doing is that we’re rewriting the protocols of email—the standard rules computers use for delivering email messages—so that messages are encrypted before they leave your computer and can’t be decrypted until they’ve reached the recipient’s computer. And because this is built into the system, there’s no cognitive burden. Grandma could use this—you don’t need to understand encryption or why it’s important. If someone can use email today, they will be able to use Dark Mail tomorrow.

Just to be clear, one important distinction is that Dark Mail is a technology—it’s not [an email] service. Our hope is that different email service providers will implement support for Dark Mail. In fact, we’ll be publishing the specifications and releasing the code as free software. That way, the community can help us find vulnerabilities and make Dark Mail even more secure. It’s even possible that others will take our design and improve on it. And if they do, more power to them.


So how does Dark Mail work?


Dark Mail is built around something called asymmetric cryptography, in manner similar to [a piece of software called] PGP, which stands for Pretty Good Privacy. It involves two keys (think passwords) to work. You generate a public and a private key. You then give your public key to the world, so that anyone in the world can send you a message that has been encrypted using the public key. Once the message has been protected using a public key, only someone with the corresponding private key can unlock it. At least in theory, the only person with access to the corresponding private key is you.

Now all you need to do is protect it.

But Dark Mail is more complicated than simply taking PGP and making it automatic. For example, we’re working on making the Dark Mail key discovery process resistant to manipulation by bad guys with big budgets. Were also working on the metadata problem—or making it harder for an outsider to track when and with whom you’re communicating. Without that, we will lose our ability to associate freely. I know this from experience. Contacting the EFF shouldn’t make you a surveillance target.


Is this type of encryption even legal?


Yes. If you go back to the early ‘90s, the person who wrote PGP, Phil Zimmermann, freely released his software to a handful of friends. Eventually PGP source code found its way onto the global Internet. For his trouble, Zimmermann was subjected to a 3-year criminal investigation, which would eventually be dropped and never result in charges against him. At the time, in 1991, any form of encryption that was strong enough to be considered unbreakable by the federal government was classified as a munition—as a weapon—and was subject to strict distribution controls.

In large part because of Zimmermann, those laws would get repealed, and the victory would become one of many battles that make up a period known as the Crypto Wars. Freedom would eventually prevail. We won the right to create and distribute software with strong encryption. All we need to do now is use that right.

Henry Sapiecha

Where is that spacecraft? Space surveillance @ work

man floats in space without craft image

Philadelphia, PA—Space surveillance is inherently challenging when compared to other tracking environments due to various reasons, not least of which is the long time gap between surveillance updates. “Unlike the air and missile defense environments where objects are frequently observed, the space surveillance environment data is starved, with many objects going several orbital periods between observations,” according to researcher Joshua Horwood. “Thus, it is more challenging to predict the future location of these sparsely-seen objects and they have a tendency to get lost using traditional methods. A new way of tracking them, the Gauss von Mises (GVM) distribution, has improved predictive capabilities that permit one to more effectively maintain custody of infrequently-observed space objects.”

In a paper published in July in the SIAM/ASA Journal on Uncertainty Quantification, authors Horwood and Aubrey Poore, both of Numerica Corporation, propose a more statistically rigorous treatment of uncertainty in the near-Earth space environment than currently available. The method proposed is a new class of multivariate probability density functions, called the Gauss von Mises (GVM) family of distributions.

“By more faithfully representing the uncertainty in a space object’s orbit, the GVM distribution allows one to more accurately predict the future locations of satellites and debris,” says Horwood. “Uncertainty propagation using the GVM distribution can be achieved at a computational cost commensurate with traditional methods and can maintain a proper characterization of the uncertainty for up to eight times as long.”

It is important to study uncertainty in the space surveillance tracking environment in order to protect space assets and maintain awareness of potentially adversarial space deployments. The proper characterization of uncertainty enables us to allocate resources in order to gain as much information about the system as possible, and detect satellite maneuvers. Better uncertainty quantification also helps us track and look for close approaches between any two space objects, a process called conjunction analysis.

Horwood explains further with an example, “In the problem of conjunction analysis, the use of the GVM distribution can provide a more reliable probability of collision and allows conjunction assessments further into the future. This translates into fewer false alarms and hence fewer expensive maneuver operations that have to be performed on operational spacecraft.”

In order to quantify uncertainty, proper characterization of a space object’s full state probability density function (PDF) is required to faithfully represent the statistical errors. The GVM distribution approach is supported by a suite of next-generation algorithms for uncertainty propagation, data association, space catalog maintenance, and other space situational awareness functions. What distinguishes the GVM distribution is that it is defined on a cylindrical manifold, and such coordinates, used in conjunction with the GVM distribution, can provide a statistically rigorous treatment of uncertainty needed for orbit determination and tracking.

Methods proposed in this paper will be beneficial for studying various aspects of future space surveillance. “A quantification of the uncertainties in space surveillance is a prerequisite for robustly tracking hundreds of thousands of space objects that are expected in the future,” says Horwood. “This involves various levels of research including sensor-level processing (to improve the characteristics of the measurement errors and biases), propagation of uncertainty, dynamics and space environment modeling, inverse problems such as statistical orbit determination, and high performance computing to serve the growing space catalog.”

Original release:

Henry Sapiecha


A Closer Look: Ways to hide, secure data on police proof phones

group communications worlwide image

NEW YORK (AP) — Apple got a lot of attention last week when it released a new privacy policy along with a declaration that police can’t get to your password-protected data.

Essentially, your photos, messages and other documents are automatically encrypted when you set up a passcode, with or without a fingerprint ID to unlock the phone. Apple says it cannot bypass that passcode, even if law enforcement asks.

Google says it will also encrypt data by default in an upcoming Android update. The option has been there, but many people don’t know about it or bother to turn it on.

Apple, Google and other tech companies have been trying to depict themselves as trustworthy stewards of personal information following revelations that the National Security Agency has been snooping on emails and other communications as part of an effort to identify terrorists. Apple is also trying to reassure customers about its commitment to security and privacy after hackers broke into online accounts of celebrities who had personal photos stored on Apple’s iCloud service.

Beyond setting up passcodes, some phones have additional tools for hiding or securing sensitive photos and documents stored on the phone, particularly if you need to lend or show your phone to someone.

Here’s a closer look at some of those options:


i phone image black on white

In the latest software update for mobile devices, iOS 8, Apple offers an easier way to hide photos from your collection in the Photos app. Simply press down on the photo or the thumbnail of it and tap “Hide.”

However, the photo will still appear in individual albums, including a new one called “Hidden.” You can go there to unhide hidden photos.

So why bother? This feature is mainly useful when you want to let people glance through your entire collection of photos. That could be when you’re sitting with a friend in the same room or making a presentation before a large audience. You can hide embarrassing or incriminating photos – such as naked selfies – as long as you remain in control of the device. If you hand it to a friend and walk out, your friend can browse through the albums section.


samsung-galaxy-alpha image white

The Galaxy S5 phone introduced a private mode. You turn it on in the settings, under “Private Mode” in the Personalization section.

You then go through your phone to mark certain content as private. With photos, for instance, just go to the Gallery app and select the photos or albums you want to keep private. Then hit the menu icon for the option to “Move to Private.” This also works with selected video, music, audio recordings.

After you’ve marked your files as private, you need to go back to the settings to turn Private Mode off. Think of that setting as the door to a vault. Turning it on opens the door and lets you move stuff in and out. Turning it off closes and locks the door. It’s the opposite of what you might think: Private Mode needs to be off for your content to be secure.

Once locked, it is as though the content never existed. No one will know what’s inside the vault, or whether there’s even anything inside. To unlock the vault, you need your passcode or fingerprint ID.

The private-mode feature is also part of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S tablets and the upcoming Galaxy Note phones.

 LG G 3


LG’s flagship phone has a guest mode. You can lend a phone to a friend without giving your friend access to everything. You can even set a separate unlock code for the guest, so that you don’t have to give out yours.

Look for “Guest mode” in the settings under the General tab. You then specify which apps your guest can access. For instance, you might want to give access to the phone, alarm clock and music, but you might want to block email and texts.

In some cases, guests have limited access to your content. With the Gallery app, your collection of photos won’t generally appear unless they are in the “Guest album.” Guests can take photos, too, and have them appear there. On the other hand, if you enable access to the Photos app, your guest gets everything. Likewise, there are no restrictions with email or texts if you allow access to those apps.

I recommend logging in as a guest – with the alternative code – to verify what’s available after you pick the apps to allow.

Beyond the guest mode, the G3 lets you lock certain images in the Gallery app during normal use, similar to what the Galaxy devices offer.


Digital Life A Closer Look Phone Privacy

These tips touch only the surface of what you can do to protect your privacy.

For instance, these apply only to data stored on the device. For files stored on Internet-based storage services such as iCloud and Dropbox, you’ll want to make sure you have a strong password and turn on a second layer of protection, often known as two-step verification. I covered that in a previous column, which can be found here: .

You’ll also want to pay attention to what data you’re sharing through apps.

With iOS, you can choose which apps can know your location and when, such as all the time or only when the app is actively running. Go to the “Location Services” settings under “Privacy.” Unfortunately, it tends to be all or nothing with Android. You can turn off location services, but that affects all apps, including maps and others that might need your location.

With both iOS and Android, you can choose to limit ad targeting based on your interests and surfing history.

For an explainer, read our column here: .

Henry Sapiecha


This licensed Private Investigator has had sex with 60 prostitutes – Sydney’s ratepayers footing the bill

Someone's gotta do it. Fred Allen is paid to use the services of suspected brothels image

Someone’s gotta do it: Fred Allen* is paid to use the services of suspected brothels. Photo: James Brickwood

Three years ago Fred Allen* was a taxi driver working 12-hour shifts to make ends meet.

Today, he is a gun for hire, having received tens of thousands of dollars from Sydney’s metropolitan councils in exchange for crucial evidence that is presented in court to help expose and close underground parlours. In short, Mr Allen has paid sex with prostitutes and ratepayers foot the bill.

“Never in a million years would I have imagined a job like this existed, let alone me doing it,” the 60-year-old said, with a hint of a smirk. “It’s a strange world for sure.”

Mr Allen confirmed he had completed more than 60 jobs at locations across Sydney

Mr Allen confirmed he had completed more than 60 jobs at locations across Sydney. Photo: James Brickwood

When Sydney-based Lyonswood Investigations advertised for a “brothel buster investigator” in 2011, it was inundated with resumes from as far afield as Finland.

But while all applicants were willing to engage in paid, undercover sex, the agency’s managing director Lachlan Jarvis confirmed Fred was the only suitable candidate for the niche role. “He had his private investigator’s license, his oral and written English was excellent, he was willing to appear in court if needed … and he was single.”

Mr Allen’s maiden mission involved an undercover visit to an unlicensed brothel reportedly masquerading as a massage clinic. “I had never been to a brothel in my life so I was feeling quite nervous and apprehensive,” he recalled.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I reminded myself that this was a legal job exposing illegal activities. As far as first days at work go, I enjoyed myself.”

Since then, a core group of approximately 10 Sydney councils have called on his services. “The drill is always the same, he explained. “An email arrives in my inbox providing the name, address and description of the premises. I then head in, get the information required and file a written report to the office, which is forwarded to the council.”

Mr Allen confirmed he had completed more than 60 jobs at various locations across Sydney. In nearly every case, the establishments were “clean and comfortable” environments staffed almost exclusively by Asian girls who were in Australia to “study English”. Sexual services were given in all but three of the businesses he has visited, he said.

“The jobs flow in, on average, once every three weeks. If it spreads out that way, it’s perfect,” he said.

“But there are occasions when they all arrive at once. For instance, I was given three jobs to complete, for the same council, in the same week … and I’m not as young as I used to be.”

While Mr Allen said he enjoys the thrill of going undercover, he doesn’t believe there’s a book in his adventures.

“I’d like to recount a series of hair-raising adventures and humorous anecdotes but, the truth is, it’s all pretty run of the mill,” he said. “I’m hired as your regular, everyday customer who walks in, requests a service, pays the money, and then leaves with a smile. I’ve never had a knife drawn on me or anything.

“I can assure you, it’s far safer than being a taxi driver. It’s better paid too.”

Though their paths have never crossed, he is aware of one other agent like him in Sydney. Far from feeling threatened, he is “heartened” by the likelihood of there being more. “It would be nice to meet them one day,” he said.

To date, he has only shared his secret with one other person: “I told one of my mates … he was a bit incredulous and a bit envious, too.”

While Mr Allen acknowledges his work is not the sort of job you want everyone knowing about, he has grappled with the idea of coming clean with his two adults sons.

“I’m in a quandary,” he said. “I’ve considered sitting them down and telling them. Alternatively, when I kick the bucket, they’ll go through my paperwork and discover for themselves.

“Either way, I hope they have a good chuckle.”

* not his real name

Henry Sapiecha

Howard ’embarrassed’ by WMD intelligence that led to Iraq commitment

Former prime minister John Howard ’embarrassed’ by Iraq WMD intelligence; says Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech was ‘nonsense’

Former prime minister John Howard says he was “embarrassed” intelligence he used to take Australia to war in Iraq was inaccurate and denies it was a “deliberate deception”.


In an interview broadcast on the Seven Network, Mr Howard said he and the then National Security Committee of Cabinet in 2003 sent Australian troops into Iraq because they believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and posed a threat to the West.

“I was struck by the force of the language used in the American national intelligence assessment late in November 2002,” he said.

“It brought together all the American intelligence and paragraph after paragraph, they said, we judge Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.”

However, he said as evidence emerged that there were no weapons of mass destruction, he sought to explain the government’s decision.

“I felt embarrassed, I did, I couldn’t believe it, because I had genuinely believed it,” he told interviewer Janet Albrechtsen.

“So, I felt embarrassed and I did my best to explain … that it wasn’t a deliberate deception.

“It may have been an erroneous conclusion based on the available information but it wasn’t made up.”

Mr Howard also chided his successor as prime minister, Kevin Rudd, who he said initially supported the intelligence findings before later accusing him of “going to war on a lie”.

“Kevin Rudd made a speech saying that it was an empirical fact that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, he later on said that I had taken the country to war based on a lie, despite the fact he said it was an empirical fact, never one to understate things,” he said.

So much of the Islamic State operation comes out of what’s occurring in Syria and to suggest that it’s purely or predominately a result of what happened in Iraq in 2003 is a false reading of history.

Former prime minister John Howard

But former intelligence analyst turned independent MP Andrew Wilkie said Mr Howard should feel ashamed of his role in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“John Howard should be feeling a damn sight more than embarrassed. He should be feeling quite ashamed of himself,” he said.

“He should be feeling quite lucky that, conceivably, he hasn’t been charged with conspiracy to commit mass murder.

“The fact is that Australia joined in the invasion of Iraq 11-and-a-half years ago on lies.”

Mr Howard denied the conflict – led by United States and Britain – sowed the seeds for the formation of militant group Islamic State (IS), which has since seized control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

“If you’re seeking to locate the responsibility specifically to the 2003 invasion, let me put it to you that Syria was not involved in any outside military operation, but more than 200,000 have died in the Syrian civil war,” he said.

“And so much of the Islamic State operation comes out of what’s occurring in Syria and to suggest that it’s purely or predominately a result of what happened in Iraq in 2003 is a false reading of history.”

US president Barack Obama last month launched strikes against IS targets in Iraq and has foreshadowed the formation of a multi-national coalition to “destroy” the brutal Sunni militant group.

Australia has supported US efforts by delivering humanitarian and military aid to Iraqis under siege by IS fighters and sent fighter jets and about 600 troops, including special forces soldiers, to the Middle East to prepare for possible deployment in coming weeks.

Authorities last week said they had uncovered a plot by IS-linked operatives to abduct and execute a “random member of the public” from the Sydney streets.

Australia faces ‘real threat’ from terrorism

Mr Howard said there was a real threat of terrorism to Australia but advised against using that as a justification for slowing the rate of Muslim immigration.

john howard face image

He said a focus on integrating Muslim youths into the mainstream would help prevent them becoming radicalised.

I don’t think any Australian should assume we won’t have a terrorist incident here.

Former prime minister John Howard

Mr Howard said some people had spent too much time in closed communities where such radicalisation could occur.

“As many people know I’m not an overwhelming fan of the doctrine of multiculturalism,” he said.

“I believe in bringing people of different races, different religions, to this country but once you’re here you’ve got to become part of the mainstream community.”

Mr Howard said Australia still faced a real threat from terrorism.

“I don’t think any Australian should assume we won’t have a terrorist incident here,” he said.

Removing Rudd left Gillard with no authority: Howard

Mr Howard, who was prime minister from 1996 to 2007, also took aim at the trouble that plagued the Labor government after he was ousted from office.

He said former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard had “no authority” because of her involvement in replacing Mr Rudd as Labor leader in 2010.

“Having done the extraordinary thing in participating in removing a first-term prime minster and then not to win the subsequent election, meant she never had authority,” he said.


“She never exercised authority because she had to validate her extraordinary participation in an extraordinary act.”

He also dismissed Ms Gillard’s so-called misogyny speech in October 2012 as “nonsense”.

“The idea that Tony Abbott is anti-women is ridiculous. Just quite wrong,” he said.

“I think it’s the worst possible way of promoting a greater involvement by women in public life and something that I support, we should have more women in Parliament … is to play the misogyny card.

“And so many women of ability I know in the community poured scorn on that.”

Mr Howard said while the speech in Parliament attacking Mr Abbott and sexism attracted a lot of media attention, it failed to resonate with women.

An interview with Ms Gillard, who is releasing her memoirs next month, will air on the Nine Network this week.


Henry Sapiecha





A GROUP of men triggered a security scare at Sydney’s Lucas Heights nuclear reactor yesterday

after two vehicles parked about 100m from the front security gate.

The five adults, who were with two children, were interviewed by NSW and federal police for about 20 minutes

after they were spotted near the highly sensitive site at 5.15pm.

police question persons at sydney nuclear reactor site image www.ispysite (4)

Police talk to the group of men near the Lucas Heights perimeter fence.

Police quizzed the men about their movements, taking down particulars from each of them and checking their identifications.

After the discussions, the men were allowed to go without charge, with police warning them that Lucas Heights is a protected Commonwealth facility controlled by the Australian Nuclear Science And Technology Organisation.

police question persons at sydney nuclear reactor site image www.ispysite (6)

Police talk to the group of men near the Lucas Heights perimeter fence.

But a police source raised the question of why the men — who had earlier been seen walking along a track near bushland off New Illawarra Rd — were at a location clearly marked as restricted Commonwealth land.

Police at the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor.

“That’s the most concerning question and explains why so many police raced to the scene,” the source said.

Nine News reported that at least two of the men, wearing robes, were seen praying not long after they had been stopped by police.

police question persons at sydney nuclear reactor site image www.ispysite (3)

Police at the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor.

It is believed police warned the men that trespassing in the restricted zone was potentially an offence that carries a $2000 maximum fine and/or up to six months in jail depending on the circumstances.

police question persons at sydney nuclear reactor site image www.ispysite (2)

Police talk to the group of men near the Lucas Heights perimeter fence.

A police spokesman said: “Following inquiries, all occupants of the vehicles were ­allowed to leave.”

The Lucas Heights facility is heavily protected and security has been progressively increased in the wake of several security scares and incidents in recent times involving bushwalkers and trail-bike riders.

police question persons at sydney nuclear reactor site image www.ispysite (1)

Police talk to the group of men near the Lucas Heights perimeter fence.

One unrelated example was a terror plot involving French Islamic convert Willie Brigitte in 2003.

sydney nuclear reactor site aerial footage of men praying when apprehended by police image

A screen shot from Channel 9 footage which appears to show two of the men praying

The facility was also the focus of the foiled Pendennis terror plot involving Australian-born terrorist Mohamed Elomar, who was photographed proudly holding the severed heads of Syrian soldiers while fighting with Islamic State militants.

police question persons at sydney nuclear reactor site image www.ispysite (7)

Police talk to the group of men near the Lucas Heights perimeter fence.

He was arrested in 2005 and jailed for being the bombmaker in the Pendennis plot to blow up the nuclear reactor and the MCG.

The area is subject to restricted airspace and is bound by perimeter fencing, CCTV cameras, barriers and tyre-shredding road spikes.


Police talk to the group of men near the Lucas Heights perimeter fence.

A huge steel protective barrier was built over the nuclear reactor in 2004 to protect its core if an aircraft was flown into it.

Dubbed the “chip basket”, the striking 30m-long feature, the first of its kind in the world, acts as a net to catch a terrorist-piloted aircraft.

Personnel vetting, information security and technology measures are part of the security measures on the site, 31km southwest of Sydney.

ANSTO Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Lucas Heights sign image

The ANSTO Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Lucas Heights.



Henry Sapiecha



POLICE say co-ordinated raids on homes across Brisbane’s south and in Sydney this morning were in response to threats of random attacks on members of the public, including the possible beheading of a random member of the public on a city street and mass shootings.

Fifteen people have been detained and one person charged with terrorism offences, following pre-dawn raids across Sydney and Brisbane, as part of a pre-emptive strike amid fears a suspected terror cell was close to launching an attack.

A Sydney court heard this afternoon that a man arrested during today’s raids was plotting a public execution on Sydney streets that was designed to horrify the community.

Omarjan Azari, 22, faced court on one count of committing an act in preparation or planning for a terrorist act.

Court documents show Azari is accused of conspiring with Mohammad Baryalei, who is known to have ­recruited Australians to fight with Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, including wanted terrorists Khaled Sharrouf and Mohamed Elomar.

Baryalei, a part-time actor who played a paramedic in the TV Underbelly series, has been identified as the most senior Australian member of IS.

He is believed to have fled the country to join the murderous rampage through the Middle East.

Azari was arrested this morning when hundreds of ASIO and heavily armed police officers swooped in anti-terrorism raids to prevent a mass casualty shooting in Sydney and possible beheadings.

Muhammad Ali Baryalei, a known member of an Islamic State who has fled the country, is believed to be behind the terror plot.image

Muhammad Ali Baryalei, a known member of an Islamic State who has fled the country, is believed to be behind the terror plot. 

Unconfirmed reports have also emerged that the groups may have been planning beheadings or mass shootings on home soil.

The ABC reports court documents expected to reveal the terror plan involved draping random Sydney person in Islamic State flag and beheading them on camera in Martin Place.

A similar attack was carried out on British Army soldier, Lee Rigby, in London, May 2013. when he was run down and butchered on a busy street by two men.

RAIDS REACTION: Terror threat is real

police at terrorist raid  sydney nsw image

Police did say they believed extremists were planning a random attack on members of the public.

This afternoon Premier Campbell Newman revealed that last week’s terror raid may have thwarted an “onshore terrorist action”, with one of the men arrested understood to have been allegedly planning a terror attack somewhere in the state.

Mr Newman said “that at least one individual was contemplating onshore terrorist action” and stressed that the arrests were “very timely”.

It is understood the alleged plot was to be carried out in Queensland.

Fresh allegations are expected to emerge about one of the two men arrested in southeast Queensland last week over terror-related charges, Omar Succarieh and Agim Kruezi.

Speaking about today’s dramatic raids in NSW and southeast Queensland, Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said the two lots of probes were “directly” linked.

“When we briefed you previously in realtion to the arrests here in Queensland last week, the information you were provided with by both the police and the Premier at that time was accurate,” Commissioner Stewart said.

“It was factual in what we knew then. Since that time, we’ve come into possession of information, quite disturbing information, about the intention of at least one of the people presently in custody in this state. it was factual in what we knew then.”

Today’s, Queensland’s raids are undertstood to have been conducted to find out more about the alleged terror plot in Queensland.

The fresh allegations against the unknown Queensland man in custody are expected to emerge in court in NSW tomorrow.

Footage of arrests made in Sydney counter terrorism operation

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was briefed on the counter terror raids before officers swooped this morning.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he was briefed last night on the operation, adding that the intelligence received by police gave “not just suspicion” but “intent”.

“The exhortations, quite direct exhortations, were coming from an Australian who is apparently quite senior in ISIL to networks of support back in Australia to conduct demonstration killings here in this country,” he said, using another acronym for IS.

“That’s why the police and security agencies decided to act in the way they have.”

Mr Abbott will cut short his visit to Arnhem Land today to farewell RAAF crews heading to the Middle East and to attend security briefings on the terror raids in Sydney.

The Prime Minister said there were “quite direct exhortations … coming from an Australian, who is apparently quite senior in ISIL to networks of support back in Australia to conduct demonstration killings here in this country”.

“This is not just suspicion, this is intent,” he told reporters in Arnhem Land.

“There are, I regret to say, networks of people here in this country who, despite living here, despite enjoying the Australian way of life, they would do us harm.

“It’s very important that our police and security organisations be one step ahead of them and I think this morning they were.”

He praised the police operation and said he acknowledged some people believe Australia’s current involvement in Iraq makes us more of a threat.

“I understand that some people will claim that and I understand that some people will fear that, but let’s remember that Australians were subject to terror attack in Bali long before there was any talk of Australian involvement in Iraq.”

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Radio National this morning that the raids demonstrate Australian authorities are keeping the nation safe.

“Our security is the consequence of continued vigilance and hard work on the part of the security agencies,” he said.

“There is no cause, no reason, for being complacent about security.

“There are people regrettably, some of them in our midst, that don’t have the nation’s best interests at heart.”

Ikebal Patel from Muslims Australia told AM that the Islamic community has been stunned by the raids.

“Details are very sketchy and we don’t even know who the individuals are and from which particular area, or sort of association they are part of,” he said.

“So, it’s all very very sketchy. It’s all moving very fast.”

The ABC understands the raids are linked to a similar operation in Queensland last week, when an Islamic bookshop was searched, and two men arrested.

The men have been accused of helping to recruit, facilitate and fund people to travel to Syria to engage in hostile activities.

The only man charged during the raids so far has been named as 22-year-old Omarjan Azari, who faced a Sydney court today on one count of committing an act in preparation or planning for a terrorist act.

Azari, dressed in a navy hooded jacket and black pants, made a brief appearance in the dock of Central Local Court.


Extra sheriffs surrounded the dock as he was brought up before Magistrate John Bailey.

His lawyer Steve Boland told the court no application would be made for bail, and asked that his client be taken back down to the cells.

Commonwealth prosecutor Michael Allnutt said the allegations involved a plan to “kidnap a person and gruesomely execute” and that it was a plan “clearly designed to shock, horrify and clearly terrify the community.”


The court heard an “unusual level of fanaticism” was involved in the plan “which would leave a person less likely to take notice of a court order”, and therefore bail should be refused.

Mr Boland said the allegations were based on just “one phone call.”

The case was adjourned until November 13.

Documents before the court say Azari, in the early hours of May 8 this year “did conspire with Mohammad Baryalei and others to do acts in preparation for or planning a terrorist act.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said the reports of what those arrested were allegedly planning are “truly horrifying”.

But the events should give Australians a “renewed sense of assurance” in the work of our security agencies.

“These raids will no doubt come as a shock to many Australians,” the Opposition Leader said.

“It’s a development that reminds us all how close to home the threat of terrorism can be.”

Australian Federal Police acting commissioner Andrew Colvin said the operation which resulted in Thursday’s raids began earlier this year.

“Police believe this group … have the intention and have started to carry out planning to commit violent acts here in Australia,” he said.

“Those violent acts particularly related to random acts against members of the public.’’

He said the operation was about police disrupting the potential for violence.

Mr Colvin said that three raids in the southeast Queensland suburbs of Logan, Underwood and Mount Gravatt East were linked to similar raids in the area last week.

“The warrants that you saw today are a follow up from that investigation, or a continuation of that investigation,” he said

Some of those taken into custody had already had their passports cancelled.

NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said “reasonable force” was used to detain one man. “Today’s operation reflects the reality of the threat that we actually face,” he said.

Mr Scipione said random attacks were planned.

“All of those plans that may have been on foot are thwarted,” he said.

Meanwhile, authorities are now concerned about possible public disorder as a result of the arrests and the revealing of details of an alleged plan to carry out a public beheading.

Officials are especially worried because many English-speaking senior Muslim community leaders are overseas on religious pilgrimage.

“The people who normally calm down the hotheads are not here,” the law enforcement source told the ABC.

More than 800 counter-terrorism police and ASIO officers swooped on homes in the early hours, with some of those detained believed to have links to the terror group Islamic State.


This included 70 AFP and Queensland police officers who conducted raids on homes in Logan, Underwood and Mt Gravatt East.

The arrests in Sydney follow months of surveillance of people linked to the terrorist group Islamic State, which has been cutting a barbaric path through Iraq and Syria.

The Australian Federal Police say a suspected terrorist cell “was close to an attack”.

NSW Police and Australian Federal Police at a search warrent at Bass Hill image

NSW Police and Australian Federal Police at a search warrent at Bass Hill. Large numbers of Police have searched the house with the assistance of sniffer dogs and special operations Police. Pics Bill Hearne Source: News Corp Australia

Hundreds of police executed search warrants in Logan, Underwood and Mt Gravatt East along with the Sydney suburbs of Beecroft, Bellavista, Guildford, Merrylands, Northmead, Wentworthville, Marsfield, Westmead, Castle Hill, Revesby, Bass Hill and Regents Park.

Police Commissioner Ian Stewart has this morning confirmed raids took place in Brisbane and Logan this morning “in conjunction” with the terror raids across Sydney.

He refused to go into details of the raids but confirmed they were related to the operation in Sydney and involved both AFP officers and Queensland police.

Mr Stewart said more details about the Brisbane operation would be made public later today but said today’s raids would not have an impact on G20 saying security planning for the summit was already at an extremely high level.

Holland Park Mosque spokesman Ali Kadri said while he could not speak on behalf of the congregation, he was disappointed about the hysteria surrounding the raids.

He said while he had met the family who had been raided at Mt Gravatt East this morning, they did not attend the Holland Park Mosque.

“My feeling is simple, the government has to do their job but the hysteria the government is creating is something I am curious about and disappointed about,” Mr Kadri said.

“The hysteria is causing affliction within the community, we all want to see a safe and secure Australia and the threat to Australia comes from different things, and one is from people misusing Islam (but) also the hate crimes of the mosque being attacked, that also divides the community.”

Mr Kadri encouraged people to come to the Holland Park Mosque tomorrow between 3-4pm for a sausage sizzle and opening.

“The most important thing we want is for people to ask questions rather than using the media or social media as their source of information,” he said.


Last week, Brisbane man Omar Succarieh, 31, was arrested and charged with terrorism-related offences following a series of raids.

He’s accused of fundraising for Syria-based extremist group Jabhat al-Nusra and helping another man, Agim Kruezi, obtain funds to fight for a terror organisation overseas.

OMAR SUCCARIEH: Bail application to be heard today

TERROR RAID: Accused ‘misses his kids’

Succarieh, who is due to apply for bail in court on Thursday, is believed to be the brother of Ahmed Succarieh, who reportedly became Australia’s first suicide bomber in Syria last year.

Logan man Kruezi, 22, has alleged links to the Islamic State group.

The raid follows the lifting of the national security alert level from medium to high last Friday by the outgoing director general of ASIO David Irvine.

Police remove a sword as part of evidence found at a residential property in the suburb of Marsfield, in Sydney image

Sword confiscated in dawn raid of isis scum by federal & local police

It is believed the size of the raid eclipsed that of Operation Pendennis in 2005 when several hundred ASIO, AFP and NSW police arrested 13 men across Melbourne and the Sydney suburb of Bankstown, who had been planning bomb attacks in both capitals.

In Brisbane, a double story house on Creek Road, Mount Gravatt East, was among the properties raided.

One neighbour said he had lived near the family, who he described as “Middle Eastern” for more than 20 years but had rarely communicated with them.

The man said he had only heard dogs barking during the morning raid.

A number of Australian Federal Police officers remain at the address.

It has not yet been confirmed whether any arrests have been made.

islamic scum suspect arrested in dawn raid by police image

Residents on Toolooma St, Logan, said police had swarmed on a single-story house there just after 6am.

By all reports the raids were executed quietly, with no signs of shouting or loud noises during the operation.

Members of the Australian Federal Police attended the scene and a sniffer dog was used to search the premise.

However, very little – if anything – has been removed from the property.


Neighbours said the family who lived there were always friendly.

“Every time I see the lady, she always says g’day to me,” one man said.

Residents said the man can often be seen in the front yard mowing the lawn in his wheelchair.

Police left the property about 10.40am.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said the government was briefed on the raids this morning.

“I’ve got every confidence in both our state police and the Australian Federal Police to handle these issues properly,” Mr Seeney said.

“I think the community should share my confidence.”

Mr Seeney said he was also confident the security organised for the G20 would be able to cope with such issues.

“A high level of security has already been organised around G20 and I am confident that the people who are responsible for G20 security will have built into their security arrangements provisions for every scenario that may develop,” he said.

Senior government ministers were unable to shed more light on the raids, but praised the work of authorities.

“I note the security agencies, the Police, ASIO are working hard to ensure that we are safe,” Coalition frontbencher Malcolm Turnbull told ABC radio this morning.

“Our security is the consequence of continued vigilance and hard work on the part of the security agencies.


“There is no cause for being complacent about security.

“There are people, regrettably some of them in our midst, that don’t have the nation’s best interest at heart.”

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s G20 Finance Minister’s meeting in Cairns, Joe Hockey said he had confidence in the security measures in place.

“Everyone needs to make sure that with an increased threat level associated with potential terrorist attacks in Australia we have all the necessary precautions taken for both the G20 here in Cairns and also in Brisbane,” the Treasurer told Sunrise.

“But, I am very confident that all bases are covered.

“We have put a lot of effort into this for a long period of time.”

There are about 60 Australians believed to be fighting in Iraq and Syria with groups such as Islamic State, while another 100 are suspected of providing support from Australia.


NSW Police make arrests in counter terrorism operation

Where the raids took place in Brisbane Source DailyTelegraph map image


Where the raids were carried out in Sydney Source DailyTelegraph image


Henry Sapiecha



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Henry Sapiecha



ASIO and hundreds of police raid Sydney and Brisbane homes in biggest counter-terrorism raid in Australia’s history

ASIO and counter terrorism police have swooped on homes across Brisbane’s south and in Sydney this morning in what is believed to be the largest anti-terrorism bust in the nation’s history.

Several arrests have been made in the secret pre-dawn raids in Sydney but the Courier Mail understands there have been no arrests in Brisbane thus far.

Hundreds of police executed search warrants in Logan, Underwood and Mt Gravatt East along with the Sydney suburbs of Beecroft, Bellavista, Guildford, Merrylands, Northmead, Wentworthville, Marsfield, Westmead, Castle Hill, Revesby, Bass Hill and Regents Park.

terror suspect arrested by fed police in australia image

Police arrest a man in Guilford this morning.

The raid is believed to have been mounted following months of surveillance of people linked to the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The Courier Mail has learned that an estimated 600 officers from the Australian Federal Police, state counter terrorism units and ASIO launched the pre-emptive strike in the early hours of this morning.

Another man is arrested in Guilford.image

Another man is arrested in Guilford.

The raids and arrests are believed to have been based on the execution of multiple ASIO and AFP warrants.

It is believed that dozens of suspects have been netted, with links to a Brisbane man who was recently arrested on suspected terrorism related charges.

OMAR SUCCARIEH: Bail application to be heard today

TERROR RAID: Accused ‘misses his kids’

It is believed that a terrorist network had been planning to carry out a series of attacks in Australia.

The raid follows the lifting of the national security alert level from medium to high last Friday by the outgoing director general of ASIO David Irvine.

One of the detained men in the sydney predawn raids image

One of the detained men in the pre-dawn raids in Sydney.

It is believed the size of the raid eclipsed that of Operation Pendennis in 2005 when several hundred ASIO, AFP and NSW police arrested 13 men across Melbourne and the Sydney suburb of Bankstown, who had been planning bomb attacks in both capitals.

An AFP spokesperson said further updates would be provided later on Thursday.

There are about 60 Australians believed to be fighting in Iraq and Syria with groups such as Islamic State, while another 100 are suspected of providing support from Australia.

Police at the scene of a raid at Mt Gravatt East. image


Henry Sapiecha

Edward Snowden reveals tapping of major Australia-New Zealand undersea telecommunications cable

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key denied there had been mass surveillance image

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key denied there had been mass surveillance.

A major undersea telecommunications cable that connects Australia and New Zealand to North America has been tapped to allow the United States National Security Agency and its espionage partners to comprehensively harvest Australian and New Zealand internet data.

Documents published by The Intercept website by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden show that New Zealand’s electronic spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), worked in 2012 and 2013 to implement a mass metadata surveillance system based on covert access to the Southern Cross undersea cable network.

Founded in 1997, Southern Cross owns and operates a Trans-Pacific submarine cable network connecting Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Hawaii to the internet backbone on the west coast of the United States. The network was developed to service the rapid growth of Internet traffic across the Pacific. It is owned by Telecom New Zealand with a 50 per cent share, SingTel Optus (Australia’s second-largest telecommunications provider) with 40 per cent and Verizon Business with 10 per cent.

Edward Snowden accused New Zealand's Prime Minister of misleading the public image

Edward Snowden accused New Zealand’s Prime Minister of misleading the public.

Top secret documents provided by Mr Snowden show that the GCSB, with ongoing cooperation from the US National Security Agency, implemented Phase I of a mass surveillance program code-named “Speargun” at some time in 2012 or early 2013.


“Speargun” involved the covert installation of “cable access” equipment connected to New Zealand’s main undersea cable link, the Southern Cross Cable, which carries internet traffic between Australia, New Zealand and North America.

Upon completion of the first stage, Speargun moved to Phase II, under which “metadata probes” were to be inserted into those cables. The leaked NSA documents note that the first such metadata probe was scheduled for installation in “mid-2013”. Surveillance probes of this sort are used by NSA and its “5-eyes” partners including the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) to tap into high capacity fibre-optic communication cables, enabling them to extract vast flows of data including the dates, times, senders, and recipients of emails, phone calls, as well as the actual content of communications as required.

The latest disclosures from top secret documents leaked by Mr Snowden come in the context of the final stages of New Zealand’s election campaign where New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has been under pressure to explain the extent of GCSB’s surveillance activities. On Sunday Mr Key stridently attacked US journalist Glen Greenwald, who is the author of numerous articles based on Mr Snowden’s materials including Monday’s report published on The Intercept website.

Mr Snowden, in a post for The Intercept, also published on Monday, accused Prime Minster Key of misleading the New Zealand public about GCSB’s role in mass surveillance. “The Prime Minister’s claim to the public, that ‘there is no and there never has been any mass surveillance’, is false,” the former NSA analyst wrote. “The GCSB, whose operations he is responsible for, is directly involved in the untargetted, bulk interception and algorithmic analysis of private communications sent via internet, satellite, radio, and phone networks.”

Mr Snowden explained that “at the NSA, I routinely came across the communications of New Zealanders in my work with a mass surveillance tool we share with GCSB, called ‘X-Keyscore'”. He further observed that “the GCSB provides mass surveillance data into X-KEYSCORE. They also provide access to the communications of millions of New Zealanders to the NSA at facilities such as the GCSB facility in Waihopai, and the Prime Minister is personally aware of this fact.”

Mr Key responded quickly to the latest disclosures, claiming that “there is not, and never has been, mass surveillance of New Zealanders undertaken by the GCSB”.

The New Zealand Prime Minister said he would not discuss the X-Keyscore program, saying “we don’t discuss the specific programmes the GCSB may, or may not use”.

“But the GCSB does not collect mass metadata on New Zealanders, therefore it is clearly not contributing such data to anything or anyone,” Mr Key said.

Fairfax Media has previously reported on the Australian Signals Directorate’s involvement in the X-Keyscore program and the ASD’s cooperation with Singapore’s Ministry of Defence to tap submarine cables in South East Asia.

The Australian Signals Directorate has also acquired sophisticated technology designed to tap high-speed fibre optic data cables including those that connect Australia with Asia and North America.  The huge volume of intelligence now collected by the ASD data has required the construction of a new $163.5 million data storage facility at the HMAS Harman naval communications facility near Canberra.

The latest revelations from Mr Snowden’s trove of leaked intelligence documents are likely to fuel debate in Australia about the Commonwealth Government’s controversial proposals for compulsory retention of metadata by telecommunications and internet service providers for access without warrant by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and law enforcement agencies. Attorney-General George Brandis yesterday confirmed the Australian Government’s determination to introduce legislation to mandate the compulsory data retention “later in the year”.

Henry Sapiecha

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has today presented its report


Committee supports amendments to national security legislation

aust gov logo white on black

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security has today presented its report on the National Security Legislation Amendment Bill (No. 1) 2014.

The Committee’s bipartisan report includes 16 recommendations intended to provide greater clarity and strengthen the safeguards and oversight mechanisms in the Bill. The Committee has also recommended that the Bill be passed.

Key recommendations include:
• Reporting requirements for ASIO in any instance of use of force against a person, and close oversight by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (recommendations 6, 7 and 8)
• The Attorney-General’s approval of any Special Intelligence Operation (SIO), including variation of an SIO or its extension beyond six months (recommendation 9)
• Enhanced oversight of the SIO scheme by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (recommendation 10)
• Exemptions under proposed section 35P to allow disclosure of information about an SIO in particular circumstances (recommendations 11) and improved clarity about potential prosecution (recommendations 12 and 13)
• Budget supplementation for the Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (recommendation 15)
The Committee has also sought to enhance reporting requirements and obtain greater clarity in provisions relating to ASIO affiliates, secondment arrangements, computer access warrants and disclosure of information to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.

Committee Chair, Mr Dan Tehan, said “I am very pleased to present this bipartisan report today. The Committee has sought to ensure that the Bill achieves an appropriate balance between national security requirements and the necessary safeguards that the community expects.”

‘The Committee has tabled its report out of session to facilitate debate on this important legislation when Parliament returns.”

Referred by the Attorney-General on 16 July 2014, the Bill implements many of the bipartisan recommendations made by the Committee in Chapter 4 of its 2013 Report of the Inquiry into Potential Reforms of Australia’s National Security Legislation. During its inquiry, the Committee received more than 30 written submissions and conducted public and private hearings.

A full copy of the report and further information about the inquiry can be accessed via the Committee’s website at

For media comment, please contact the Office of the Chair, Dan Tehan MP, on 6277 4393 (Parliament House) or 03 5572 1100 (Electorate).
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Media release date of issue: 17 September 2014

Henry Sapiecha

NSW Police use hacking software to spy on computers and smartphones: WikiLeaks data

Martin Muench, managing director of Gamma International, poses for a photo in 2012 image

Martin Muench, managing director of Gamma International, poses for a photo in 2012.

NSW Police are using sophisticated hacking software to spy on smartphones and computers during criminal investigations, according to documents published by WikiLeaks on Monday.

FinFisher, also known as FinSpy, is surveillance software sold by German company Gamma International. The software is typically used by intelligence and policing agencies to break into computers and mobiles and can secretly log keystrokes and take screenshots.

It can also remotely capture Skype and instant messenger conversations and take control of computer microphones and web cameras to listen in.

The documents show NSW Police purchased approximately $2.5 million worth of licences for the software, starting in September 2011. They reveal the agency has held nine licences for FinSpy, FinFly, FinIntrusion, FinSpy Mobile and FinFireWire over the past three years.

NSW Police is named as the only Australian agency among many around the world to have spent a collective $72 million on the software.

NSW Police did not deny the spyware’s use.

“Given this technology relates to operational capabilility [sic], it’s not appropriate to comment,” a police spokesman said.

Under NSW law, police can apply for “covert” search warrants, which allow them to search a computer without its owner’s knowledge; this includes online accounts and the like. The warrants are obtained from a Supreme Court judge who is “eligible” to grant them.

In early March 2009, then NSW premier Nathan Rees unveiled a suite of new laws, one of which he said would allow police to gain “remote access” to computers for seven days at a time or up to a total of 28 days or longer in exceptional circumstances. The laws were passed later that month.

“This could including cracking codes and searching computers for evidence of child porn, drug running and money laundering,” Rees said then.

“FinFisher continues to operate brazenly from Germany selling weaponised surveillance malware to some of the most abusive regimes in the world,” said Julian Assange, the Australian WikiLeaks editor in chief, who is holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in Britain.

Julian Assange has criticised Germany for allowing FinFisher to

“The Merkel government pretends to be concerned about privacy, but its actions speak otherwise. Why does the Merkel government continue to protect FinFisher? This full data release will help the technical community build tools to protect people from FinFisher including by tracking down its command and control centres.”


The leaked documents published by WikiLeaks have come to light following the hacking of Gamma International in August, which exposed an estimated 40 gigabytes of internal data from the firm detailing the operations and effectiveness of the FinFisher suite of surveillance platforms.

Sydney software architect and IT security consultant Troy Hunt said it was no surprise that government agencies, including NSW Police, were making use of the spyware.

But he said its use raised a number of questions, such as whether police were obliged to remove the spyware after its use and whether due legal process was followed in installing it.

He said the software gave its users the ability to virtually look over the shoulders of any target. More often than not he said the software was able to be installed remotely by its users.

NSW Council for Civil Liberties spokesman Stephen Blanks said he was uncomfortable with the software’s use.

“The use of software like this to enable law-enforcement agencies to remotely access computer networks raises particular concerns and it is vital that there is sufficient information made available about the use of [the associated] warrants so that the public can be satisfied that they are not being abused.”

In one leaked document, WikiLeaks identifies a NSW Police user of the spyware emailing Gamma saying that warrants authorised the use of FinFisher. In the same ticket, the user asks Gamma if some new capabilities can be introduced to make its use conform to Australian standards.

In another email, a NSW Police user complains about access to an Apple Mac user’s computer.

“When a mac target is online, there is a configuration link which allows updating the configuration of the target and trojan,” the NSW Police user says in the ticket. “However when the target is offline, there isnt [sic] any configuration link. This only appears on a mac target … Should there be a configuration link on a mac target when it is offline?”

In another email, a NSW Police user complains about an update which broke the software.

“From our logs, there appears to have been an update early this morning which has broken the Agents [sic] access to the server. If at all possible, we require urgent assistance as we are waiting to conduct an install tonight,” the user says.

Last year a freedom of information request by an Australian citizen to the Australian Federal Police seeking information about whether it used FinFisher was rejected by the agency.

Henry Sapiecha


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Review of the AML/CTF Act, Rules and regulations
Submissions for the issues paper on the review of the AML/CTF Act, regulations and AML/CTF Rules closed on 28 March 2014. Information on further stakeholder engagement will be issued after submissions have been considered by the Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) and AUSTRAC.

More here…

Henry Sapiecha