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Countering foreign interference

Aotearoa New Zealand’s strength lies in our open economy and democratic society but this can be exploited.

All states engage in foreign influence activity, seeking to shape perceptions and decision-making in other countries.

When a foreign state seeks to influence, disrupt or subvert New Zealand’s interests through covert, deceptive, corruptive or threatening means, this is considered foreign interference.

Foreign interference can harm New Zealand’s sovereignty, democracy, economy, national interests, reputation, and social cohesion.

Foreign interference occurs in many ways, including by:

  • influencing democratic processes, including elections
  • obtaining technological and intellectual property from government, business and academia
  • using cyber-attacks to steal information or to target infrastructure
  • spreading propaganda and disinformation, or censoring access to information
  • seeking to control or intimidate communities (especially those that whakapapa to foreign states)
  • cultivating relationships of influence or dependence, that can be leveraged.

Globally, foreign interference is increasing and New Zealand is not immune.

Government’s role

Government agencies are responsible for managing national security risks within their portfolio responsibilities, including foreign interference.

Agencies work with local government, business, academia, media, elected officials and communities to build domestic resilience to the threats of foreign interference.

Our countering foreign interference work programme seeks to protect:

  • our democratic institutions and civil and political rights
  • our sustained economic prosperity.

Under these headings, we focus on:

  • robust government and electoral systems
  • resilient academic and media sectors
  • strong and connected communities
  • protecting our sensitive technologies
  • building resilient critical national infrastructure
  • managing risks arising from access and control to assets and systems (including through supply chains)
  • reducing exposure to coercive behaviour, including economic coercion

An overview of the main agencies involved in this work and their role is provided below.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (DPMC)

DPMC has a role coordinating activity across government to understand and manage significant national security risks, including improving the resilience of New Zealand institutions, and responding to significant acts of interference. Specifically, government works to enhance New Zealand’s security through a combination of:

  • boosting awareness and capability in entities that face foreign interference risks
  • stronger policy and regulatory settings
  • promoting greater transparency of foreign state activity

New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS)

The NZSIS has a core function to investigate foreign intelligence activity and interference in New Zealand and provide protective security advice to New Zealand government agencies, businesses, academia and research institutions.

Protective Security Requirements

The Protective Security Requirements group, which sits within NZSIS, has developed resources that outline the potential risks for different groups and advise on protection for individuals, organisations and assets.

Government Communications Security Service (GCSB)

The Government Communications Security Bureau’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) works with nationally significant government and private sector organisations to help increase their cyber security resilience. This includes providing cyber security advice and cyber threat alerts, development of government security standards, and the provision of advanced cyber threat detection and disruption capabilities, including Malware Free Networks and CORTEX.

Other agencies

Other agencies are responsible for work to build resilience to foreign interference risks in particular sectors. For example, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is responsible for the resilience of research and science funding proposals to interference; and the Electoral Commission is responsible for the overseeing the integrity of our parliamentary elections process.

What we have in place

Foreign interference and espionage is one of 13 national security and intelligence priorities.

We have robust measures in place to protect our values, institutions and economy, including:

  • The Overseas Investment Act 2005 that enables management of risks to New Zealand’s national interest, including national security and public order interests, related to foreign investment.
  • Electoral financing laws that prohibit many foreign donations to candidates and parties.
  • Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013 manages risks to the security of New Zealand’s public telecommunications networks.
  • A national interest test and national security safeguard in the law governing space and high-altitude activities.
  • The Export Controls framework that regulates the export of strategic goods (firearms, military goods and technologies, and goods and technologies that can be used in the production, development or delivery of nuclear chemical or biological weapons).
  • GCSB’s NCSC works with nationally significant government and private sector organisations to help increase their cyber security resilience. This includes providing cyber security advice and cyber threat alerts, development of government security standards, and the provision of advanced cyber threat detection and disruption capabilities, including is Malware Free Networks capability.
  • The Protective Security Requirements which provide a framework for agencies to assess and strengthen their protective security posture.
  • A programme of engagement with research organisations to help them manage risks to sensitive technology.
  • Guidance to elected officials, the research community and other sectors that face particular risk.

The Government has also announced its intention to establish a beneficial ownership register. Such a register will enhance New Zealand businesses’ ability to identify ultimate ownership and control of potential partners and will support due diligence to reduce foreign interference risks.

Government agencies regularly review New Zealand’s policy and regulatory settings to ensure they are appropriate for addressing foreign interference in New Zealand.

 

Last updated: 
Wednesday, 22 June 2022

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