NZ warns of rise in foreign interference amid geo-strategic rivalry

Sydney, Australia, March 27 (EFE).- New Zealand’s intelligence agencies on Monday warned of a rise in foreign interference threats amid geo-strategic rivalry as the country prepares for its October general election.

Geo-strategic competition, including in the Pacific, and “serious cyber incidents continue to threaten New Zealand organizations,” Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) director general Andrew Hampton told parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee.

In recent months, Wellington has expressed concern about the expansion of China’s influence among South Pacific island nations, especially following the security pact signed in 2022 between Beijing and the Solomon Islands.

“Aotearoa New Zealand’s interests are being challenged by this rise of geostrategic competition as some states are more readily pursuing objectives in ways that run contrary to the international rules-based order, including through malicious cyber means,” he said, without naming any particular country.

More than a third (34 percent) of cyber security incidents recorded last year were linked to actors of foreign states, Hampton said.

Security Intelligence Service (SIS) acting director-general Phil McKee told the committee there had been an “increase in foreign interference threats” in the past year and that there is a “small number of states conducting interference against New Zealand but some of those are persistent and have the potential to cause significant harm.”

Examples of incidents include harassment of ethnic communities in New Zealand speaking out against the actions of a foreign government, and attempts at foreign interference against university academics, local government officials and journalists.

New Zealand is readying for its next general election to be held in October.

“One key overarching theme emerges. That is that many of the threats we are facing stem in some way from increased strategic competition,” McKee said, adding that “foreign states will be looking for a strategic or intelligence advantage in this rivalry.”

“What that means for us and our home region is more frequent attempts to disrupt and interfere in our democracy, our economy, our information environment and our social fabric.”

Hampton also reported Monday that intelligence agencies had disrupted three possible domestic terror attacks last year, one involving an individual making bomb threats and two related to white supremacists.

New Zealand, a country with low crime levels, was the scene of a massacre perpetrated by a white supremacist against two mosques in the city of Christchurch in 2019, which left 51 dead and 40 injured, and a jihadist attack in September 2021, which ended with six injured in Auckland. EFE


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