Question Time - National Security

  • Transcript, E&OE

Mr LAUNDY (Reid) (14:26): My question is to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the minister update the House on the threat posed by terrorist organisations, including online and through the risk of cyberattacks?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin–Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:27): I thank the member for Reid for his question and note that he is deeply concerned about this matter, particularly the reports today that the so-called Islamic State Hacking Division has infiltrated systems containing personal information of around 1,500 people, including eight Australians. This is deeply concerning and the subject of investigation by our security and intelligence agencies.

I have spoken previously about how terrorist organisation such as Daesh exploit technology for their slick propaganda and recruitment purposes. Daesh is using platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to spread its perverted ideology and to groom young people, in particular, to join its barbaric force. A recent study by the Brookings Institute found that Daesh and its supporters have at least 46,000 active Twitter accounts, each with an average of 1,000 followers. Just last month, an Indonesian Daesh fighter posted a series of tweets urging followers in Indonesia to kill Westerners, claiming this was an easy form of jihad.

We have seen thousands of examples from Australia and around the world of how young people have been lured through social media to support Daesh or join its fighting in Iraq and Syria, often ending up as suicide bombers. More than 20,000 foreign fighters from over 90 countries have been drawn to this conflict. As I have informed the House before, over 120 Australians are believed to be fighting with Daesh and around 30 are believed to have been killed.

Over the last year, we have seen another emerging threat, with Daesh using increasingly sophisticated cyber capabilities for offensive purposes by conducting attacks aimed at disrupting services and revealing sensitive information. In March, the group claiming to be the Islamic State Hacking Division, in a separate incident, published online a list of photos, names and addresses of United States military personnel that it claimed was stolen from military computers with the aim of making these people targets for terrorist attacks. A recent report on Daesh's cyber capability released by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, ASPI, warns that Daesh is pushing to boost its knowledge of offensive cyber operations, and the government takes this threat extremely seriously. The government's new national Cyber Security Strategy will improve our defences against cyber threats. We have allocated around $22 million to fight online extremism by shutting down extremist sites and challenging terrorist propaganda. We are strengthening cooperation in counterterrorism with our partners in the region, including Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. We are determined to fight terrorism and to keep our people safe.

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