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Australian police can use spyware and Trojans to gather evidence under new powers introduced last week. The Surveillance Devices Act authorises Federal and state police to obtain warrants to plant back doors or keylogging on the PCs of suspects, The Age reports. Warrants can be obtained to investigate offences with a maximum sentence of three years or above.

Electronic Frontiers Australia, an online rights pressure group, says the law was rushed through without proper scrutiny and gives police too much power.

It also warns of potential conflict between the new law parts of the Telecommunications Interception Act, which regulate telecommunications monitoring. An Attorney-General representative denied this, pointing to safeguards in the legislation such as reporting to Parliament and oversight by an Ombudsman, The Age reports.

Some critics think the act will likely make Australian criminals more careful about computer security. A more serious objection is that evidence obtained from the technique may not survive legal scrutiny. Any defence lawyer with his salt would argue that if a target PC has been compromised then incriminating evidence might have been planted, too. ®

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