Friday , November 16 2018 Ausdroid » News » Exclusive: Here’s how Australian Border Force hacked a man’s Android phone


This is the story of how Australian Border Force (ABF) hacked a mans Android phone…or rather how a dumbass accused them of hacking it when in fact nothing happened.

A story on news.com.au caught our attention overnight, in which a ‘British-Australian IT businessman Nathan Hague claimed his privacy was violated and that ABF staff installed surveillance software on his phone at Sydney Airport.

Mr Hague claims that after taking control of his laptop and Android mobile phone for inspection – something Australian Border Force has the right to do under section 186 of the Commonwealth Customs Act 1901 – further clarified by their parent the Department of Home Affairs.

According to Mr Hague, the ‘evidence’ of hacking was that the phone was returned with a ‘dark blue background with “a black, floating, animated octopus” on the phone’ which he interpreted ‘as officers having installed surveillance or routing software’.

Australian Border Force has of course denied this – and rightly so. For anyone familiar with Android – and Android Oreo specifically, this will be familiar as the easter egg from Oreo:

The bottom line here is that Mr Hague, according to his Facebook post is actually now aware of this, but still maintains that Australian Border Force staff copied files from his phone.

Australian Border Force has the right to inspect devices – and they have the right to do it in private, which Mr Hague says he would have been more comfortable being present for. It’s a simple matter of if you want to enter through customs into Australia, then you follow the rules, of which inspecting devices is one. Mr Hague did not have to enter Australia.

In terms of tinfoil hat brigade, this gentleman ranks rather highly.

Source: Nathan Hague.
Via: News.com.au.

Daniel Tyson   Ausdroid's Editor in Chief

Dan is a die-hard Android fan. Some might even call him a lunatic. He's been an Android user since Android was a thing, and if there's a phone that's run Android, chances are he owns it (his Nexus collection is second-to-none) or has used it.

Dan's dedication to Ausdroid is without question, and he has represented us at some of the biggest international events in our industry including Google I/O, Mobile World Congress, CES and IFA.

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Lawrence
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Lawrence

Border control is a serious issue of this there is no doubt. But the safety of the data taken is my concern,yesterday after reporting a crime as any socially responsible citizen should do for there community I gave my mobile number out , now I have just gotten this phone after 3 years of no mobile at all. Because of my disabled non verbal autistic son I relented because of a deranged ex whom has recently been released from prison we have restraining orders but still receive cards with threats that nothing is done about . anyway after giving my… Read more »

Mr Hitman
Guest
Mr Hitman

Question for all. This law is only for the ABF to enforce and check the devices of the people entering the country correct? What about the people that are born in this country and haven’t ever left this country? Can the ABF ask any random person on the street to check their devices? Please correct me if i’m wrong, but my understanding is that they deal with people coming in and leaving the country. If you are someone who was born in australia and never left the country, the ABF have no power with that person? This is where the… Read more »

Les
Guest
Les

Quote: “Australian Border Force has the right to inspect devices” … That doesn’t mean it’s right. Border Force might have taken documents from his phone. We don’t know. The solution is, don’t keep documents on your phone when crossing borders. Keep what you need in the cloud. It’s almost worth doing a factory reset on a phone before crossing a border. I don’t have any nefarious documents, but the thought of border police forcing their way into people’s phones is an affront to democracy.

Sujay
Ausdroid Reader

Can I ask a question? Although I support ABF’s right to inspect devices, if Mr Hague gave his phone to ABF without the Easter Egg, how did the Easter Egg appear on his phone when he got it back? Surely if the Easter Egg was already on his phone, he would know, wouldn’t he? Doesn’t that suggest someone messed with his phone?

Kratos
Guest
Kratos

Exactly what I was thinking…they might have been checking the Android version out in settings but then they’d have to keep tapping it until the “Oreo” circle picture came up and then tap that picture several times too until the Octopus came up…a lot of tapping in a specific area unrelated to “investigating” a person’s phone contents. 🤔

chris
Guest
chris

It would be a good way to check if it was Android or something more.

Glen
Guest
Glen

Riiiight. Your post is utter garbage. Sorry, it really is. Hot air about ‘choice’, when this is security pantomine not actual security. How stupid would you have to be if an actual person of interest to have anything worth investigating at the border? C’mon. Instead we annoy the hell out of people visiting Australia with this Border Farce.

Chris Rowland
Guest
Chris Rowland

Not sure if you’ve visited other countries Glen, but this kind of treatment is hardly unique to Australia, nor did we do it first. You’d be amazed how many people are caught at the border by precisely techniques such as these .. and I should know, I’ve done work in that area.

noice brewery
Guest
noice brewery

just because other countries do it as well doesn’t mean its a good thing.

chris
Guest
chris

Actually the post was rather good. It highlights another moaning myrtle but also the piss poor journalism of news corp, or lack there of.
Well done Daniel.

Adam
Guest
Adam

news corp just really don’t care, tbh, about half the things they write

Warren
Guest
Warren

I think Glen should lose the label “Valued Guest” under his avatar.

Really
Guest
Really

Is there a need to have a reason to go through somebodies property, such as previous intelligence? or are these “random searches”, as in searching for a needle in a haystack type activities carried out by normal officers or IT experts who know how to properly navigate devices?

The police force is heavily regulated around what they can and can’t do whereas these people seem so much more random and I think invasive in their actions

I’m all for protecting people but the conditions and effectiveness of the act needs to be balanced against the actual probability of achieving anything.

Chris Rowland
Guest
Chris Rowland

ABF are just as closely monitored as the police services, and no, they don’t generally need a reason to go through someone’s property, but more often than not, it’s done for some reason; there’s not time nor resources to go through everyone’s phone for example. You can be fairly confident those doing the phone/laptop checks will have received some training on what to look for / how to look.

Really
Guest
Really

So the ABF aren’t as closely monitored as the police force then, which needs to have probable cause to execute searches of persons and cars for example and a warrant to enter your property from what I understand. SO the ABF is able to be random about who and why they stop people because they have the ability to turn people away at the border and are unlikely to be challenged about their actions in such circumstances. However, it would be interesting to see the actual numbers of people who are stopped in this manner (not that I have an… Read more »

Chris Rowland
Guest
Chris Rowland

I think you might’ve been watching too many American police dramas .. probable cause isn’t a term that has any great deal of meaning here. Besides, there’s a big difference between what powers the ABF has, and how closely it’s monitored. Yes, it can exercise some powers that police can’t, and in circumstances that differ to when police can do things. However, there’s many things ABF can’t do. As for -monitoring-, they’re quite closely monitored; subject to departmental oversight, ministerial oversight, as well as subject to the Australian Law Enforcement Integrity Commission – the exact same “monitoring” as the AFP.… Read more »

Shaun Daly
Guest
Shaun Daly

Appreciate the comments, you have obviously worked in this field quite extensively judging from the intimate knowledge you have of the operational and legislative requirements of the ABF and other security services. Cheers.

James McGilp
Guest
James McGilp

Yes, ABF likely won’t be challenged by most people. My last overseas trip via Singapore I was required to insert my passport into a machine and place my two thumbs on glass in order to be scanned and thus recorded along with my passport details. I was not offered to opt out. There was a time when authorities could not record people’s fingerprints unless they were convicted criminal.

Luke Roberts
Ausdroid Reader

You would think that and “IT Businessman” would know about Android’s Easter Egg… wouldn’t you??

Chris Rowland
Guest
Chris Rowland

From the look of the guy, and his opening statement acknowledging Alex Jones’ Info Wars, I’d say you can rely 195% on every word of sensationalist garbage coming out of his mouth.

Rod
Guest
Rod

That’s the yolk.

notashill
Guest
notashill

So you deleted my comment just like a previous one that pointed out a mistake? Poor form Daniel.

Chris Rowland
Guest
Chris Rowland

He didn’t delete it. I did.

notashill
Guest
notashill

Replying here too as I need to switch to a real email. Would appreciate some feedback so I can tone down my comments if that’s the issue.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

“Mr Hague did not have to enter Australia” … he did, he had business here. He was put in the situation where if he refused he’d be deported back home and miss his meeting with his lawyer. His paranoia aside, given he was in a stressful situation, having the state copy your data (which will include passwords saved on your machine) puts your entire privacy in jeopardy and that of your clients. You might not think you need your privacy because you have “nothing to hide”, most of us don’t, but you should consider looking deeper into the issues and… Read more »

Marek
Guest
Marek

I agree, the issue here isn’t surveillance, the evil government collecting information about us. Rather, it’s the reality that once you relinquish control of your data, you effectively lose any guarantees that this data isn’t going to end up in the wrong hands. Do you know how the data is copied off your device. Does it end up on AFBs laptop? Does it get uploaded to a server? Is there any possibility that somewhere along the line, it can get intercepted (laptop left somewhere, stolen, hacked, etc). What is the data retention policy – how does the data get deleted,… Read more »

Gab
Guest
Gab

Just wondering – do Australians arriving in Aus need to reveal their social media accounts and passwords to the ABF, or they just need to unlock their phone? Haven’t been back to Australia for years.

Chris Rowland
Guest
Chris Rowland

I believe the requirements would apply to anyone crossing the border .. not sure.

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