Australia warns of encrypted apps in terror plots

SYDNEY: Use of encrypted messaging apps to plan terrorist attacks is the greatest threat facing intelligence agencies in modern times, Australia warned on Saturday as Southeast Asian leaders vowed closer cooperation to counter extremism.
An Asean-Australia special summit in Sydney heard that use of the “dark web” was a spiralling problem and countries in the region must work together to keep on top of it.
Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told the meeting “the use of encrypted messaging apps by terrorists and criminals is potentially the most significant degradation of intelligence capability in modern times”.
He said the only way to deal with the problem, and the increasing use of the Internet by groups like IS to radicalise and recruit new members, was together.
“We have to be constantly alert, constantly working with our neighbours in the region,” said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, pointing to the increasingly trans-national nature of terrorism.
“Sharing of intelligence is critically important. As we all know, what may appear to be a not especially important, not especially consequential piece of intelligence, may be the piece that connects the jigsaw for somebody else’s investigation.
“Trust, sharing, collaboration, it is absolutely critical.”
Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations signed a memorandum of understanding after a day of counter-terrorism talks, agreeing to work together to develop “best practice counter-terrorism legislation”.
They also agreed to regional dialogues and workshops covering electronic evidence, financial intelligence, and ways to tackle online radicalisation.
Canberra is already helping Southeast Asian states choke terrorist financing and counter violent extremism.
The problem has been exacerbated by militants now being forced out of Syria and Iraq with the IS caliphate mostly crushed, and into other countries.
The issue was driven home last year when pro-IS militants seized the southern Philippine city of Marawi, with Australia aiding Manila to win it back.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak praised Australia’s initiative to strengthen cooperation, and said countering online extremist propaganda was especially critical.
 — AFP