Beware of spies and radicalisation attempts online: ASIO chief

Image: Miguel Sotomayor/Getty Images

Foreign spies are increasingly approaching Australians on social media and even dating sites, according to Mike Burgess, director-general of the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

“Spies are adept at using the internet for their recruitment efforts,” he said in his third annual threat assessment speech on Wednesday night.

Burgess said spies make “seemingly innocuous approaches” such as job offers on “any of the popular social media or internet platforms”.

“This then progresses to direct messaging on different, encrypted platforms, or in-person meetings, before a recruitment pitch is made,” he said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, these approaches shifted from professional networking sites — he means LinkedIn — to more personal messaging platforms, such as WhatsApp.

“ASIO is also tracking suspicious approaches on dating platforms such as Tinder, Bumble, and Hinge,” Burgess said.

“My message for any potential victims on these sites is a familiar one: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

This message was reinforced, albeit clumsily, by Senator James Paterson, chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

“If you’re a six and they’re a 10, it might not be your looks that they’ve been charmed by. It might be your access to classified information,” Paterson said.


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