Australian intelligence organisation, ASIO, can legally hack into personal computers and bug online communications under new federal legislation.
Based on recommendations from a secret report by former ASIO deputy director, Gerard Walsh, the ASIO Amendment Bill means the organisation will be able to keep a close eye and ear on the electronic frontier.
The legislation allows ASIO operatives to hack into PCs and corporate networks to retrieve data, and add, delete, or alter data in the "target" computer, while being immune from prosecution under the Crimes Act hacking provisions.
Attorney general Daryl Williams said the legislation would enable the organisation to keep abreast of the "changing information environment", which has placed increasing demands on the organisation's intelligence gathering activities.
"These amendments do not change the substance of the functions given to ASIO by Parliament, nor do they give ASIO new powers. Rather, the Bill effects a modernisation of current powers," Williams said.
The legislation also gives ASIO access to money laundering records compiled by the Australian Transactions Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC); allows the organisation to share information with similar overseas bodies; limits ASIO's requirement to disclose information to the government; and permits the organisation to charge fees for providing intelligence services.