Once again, the counterintelligence department within the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) have demonstrated their interest at thwarting HUMINT and cyber intelligence forays into the government, defense and intelligence sectors. The ASIO messaging is crystal clear; foreign adversaries are targeting Australia’s cleared community.
Facility Security Officers (FSO) and those charged with preparing annual counterintelligence briefings will not be disappointed when reviewing the “Think before you link” messaging for utility in their own CI briefs.
In the introductory message from Director-General ASIO, Mike Burgess, he notes “When it comes to online targeting by foreign spies, Australia is not alone. Citizens across the world face similar threats. We are working with our partners in the United Kingdom, the United States, and New Zealand.”
The ASIO effort is designed to thwart hostile foreign intelligence efforts to “recruit Australian and Western nationals to act as unwitting agents and provide them with sensitive intelligence.”
Think before you link
The program, like the FBI’s own counterintelligence awareness efforts, highlighted in their training video “Nevernight Connection” provides an assortment of collateral useful to FSOs.
- Print collateral goes beyond coasters and posters (the latter is provided) and includes briefing packets for managers and security personnel, staff briefing packet and a guide for organizations. The provided four-point mnemonic:
- Recognize (the profile)
- Realize (the potential threat)
- Report (to your security manager/adviser (FSO))
- Remove (them from your network)
- Video collateral includes:
- Introduction from Director General Burgess – “If it is too good to be true, it probably is”
- Jack’s Story – Think Before You Link – the short video, less than two minutes, quickly walks the viewer through the targeting effort via social networks (LinkedIn is projected without it being mentioned) and is accompanied by an 8-page Case Study involving Jack and the “headhunter Emily.”
- Reporting suspicious activities
Beware of TMI (too much information)
The bottom line is, per Director-General Burgess, “We’re simply asking people to be aware of the risks, to think about what they are putting online, and take action if they suspect they are being targeted.” He continues, “The message is simple: be aware that foreign spies are targeting Australians online, be discreet about your access to sensitive information, and be responsible—please report suspicious activity that concerns you.”
Excellent advice for all of us. “Not everyone you meet online is who they say they are.”