Potential warning signs of foreign interference

​​People who undertake foreign interference activities may not be easily identifiable, and it may not be obvious they are acting on behalf of a foreign power.

These people seeking to conduct acts of foreign interference could attempt to create a sense of personal connection with, and obligation from, an individual which they can then use to coerce or influence decisions in their favour.

This is often done by engaging in activities to make targeted individuals feel a sense of obligation or indebtedness, such as providing:

  • gifts
  • donations
  • expenses-paid travel
  • facilitated immigration processes
  • networking opportunities
  • preferential access to senior officials or businesspeople who are located in Australia or in their home country
  • seminars, study tours, business inspections or similar opportunities.

While these activities are a natural part of our society’s interactions, they can be used as part of foreign interference attempts.

They might continue for long periods without a direct request for assistance or active coercion. However as the sense of obligation grows so does the potential for harm.

A foreign power seeking to undertake foreign interference may deploy any number of more confrontational methods to exploit or create vulnerabilities including:

  • exploiting personal, family, financial or business interests
  • exploiting an individual’s poor security practices
  • obtaining, or manufacturing a situation to obtain, compromising material
  • crafting romantic relationships to obtain privileged information.

Potential warning signs of interactions and relationships transitioning to foreign interference could include:

  • reduced transparency such as requests to transition to less open or more informal forms of communication or to reduce potential public oversight of an engagement
  • a relationship being ongoing and privileged to the exclusion of sections of the community
  • a suggested or implied quid pro quo
  • attempts to hide a relationship or interaction
  • a request, suggestion or pressure to influence others to take a particular position.​
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