9 Dec 2015

NZ's security threats assessed

6:32 pm on 9 December 2015

There is a "realistic possibility" someone who has been fighting alongside Islamic State could return to New Zealand in the near future, and pose a significant threat, the Security Intelligence Service (SIS) says.

GCSB Acting Director Una Jagose

GCSB Acting Director Una Jagose - pictured earlier this year at Parliament. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Both the SIS and the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) have released their latest annual reports.

In addition to the New Zealand-based threat, the total number of New Zealanders in Syria and Iraq fighting alongside Islamic State has increased.

It said there has also been an increase in the number of females travelling there "to marry jihadist fighters".

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It expected the number of New Zealanders fighting in that region to increase in the coming year.

"Individuals fighting alongside ISIL [Islamic State] are recognised as posing a significant threat upon return to New Zealand or other countries.

"While we have not yet experienced a returnee fighter, there is a realistic possibility that this will occur in the near future."

The SIS said it had the tools to respond to someone returning from fighting with Islamic State, including the ability to carry out visual surveillance, and to either cancel or refuse to issue passports or travel documents.

Cyber security under threat: GCSB

Meanwhile, the GCSB said cyber attacks were on the rise and New Zealand was vulnerable.

"As much of New Zealand's critical infrastructure makes heavy use of ICS [information and computer science] technologies, and the infrastructure of New Zealand is highly interconnected and interdependent, cyber threats could have major economic ramifications or result in environmental damage or loss of life."

In the first six months of this yearm there were 132 cyber attacks, with that expected to top 200 by the end of the year.

Out of the 132, 79 were reported by government agencies and 33 by private sector organisations.

"The harms at issue eg theft of intellectual property, or damage to IT systems are caused by malicious software ('malware'), that cannot always be countered by commercial tools.

"Advanced malware is being directed against networks or systems owned by: key economic generators; niche exporters including in knowledge-intensive industries; major IT service providers; and government agencies"

The agency said this was not just a threat faced by New Zealand, and it worked closely with its Five Eyes partners - Australia, Canada, the UK, and the US - to share training, expertise and information.

"Some of these threats come from well-resourced, sometimes state-supported, foreign threat actors.

"While at times they are directly targeting significant New Zealand organisations, we also see them use and attempt to use New Zealand-based systems to host malware that is used to target overseas networks."

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