Back to top

Threat Environment

The international threat environment is complex and dynamic. The impact of globalisation on Australian security is not a new development, but it is one that, with each technological advance, lends increasing complexity, proximity and pace to ASIO’s operating environment. 


National terrorism threat level: PROBABLE

The national terrorism threat level for Australia is currently PROBABLE — credible intelligence, assessed to represent a plausible scenario, indicates that individuals or groups have developed both an intention and capability to conduct a terrorist attack in Australia.

This assessment highlights the persistent threat of terrorism in Australia and reinforces that the potential for a terrorist attack in Australia is a very real threat. The factors that led to the raising of the terrorism threat level in September 2014 have not diminished. The Government has no information to suggest any specific attack planning is underway or that a terrorist attack is imminent  — but credible intelligence indicates the planning of such attacks is a plausible scenario which cannot be discounted. 

The Government's National Security Website provides further information on the current threat environment. 

Reporting unusual or suspicious activity to authorities may help minimise the threat. The Government has compiled and released personal characteristics and behaviours which individuals, prone to radicalisation and extremism, may display. This and further information can be found on the Government's Living Safe Together Website.

Australians should continue to exercise caution and report any suspicious incidents to the police or National Security Hotline on 1800 1234 00.

Where does the threat come from?

Terrorism is not a new problem. There is a long history of planned and actual terrorist attacks both in Australian and against Australian interests internationally  — Australian interests are everywhere and Australians have been killed or injured in almost every major terrorist attack since 2001.

Overseas drivers and links remain central to the threat to Australia. International terrorist groups continue to promote a violent extremist message that resonates globally, including in Australia. Groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) use simplistic but effective extremist propaganda to prey on the vulnerable and easily influenced individuals, recruiting them to their violent extremist ideology. In some instances this includes promoting or influencing susceptible individuals, including fellow Australians, to commit acts of terrorist violence.

There are people in Australia who maintain intent and some capability to do us harm. The majority of those people of concern are being influenced by extremists overseas and are being directed by them towards planning and conducting a terrorist attack in Australia. ASIO is also concerned about others, including those that may have no direct contact with extremists overseas, who may be influenced to conduct terrorism in Australia by their own interpretation of extremist propaganda. 

Overseas, the security environment continues to deteriorate in the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere. Terrorist groups with the intention and capability to harm westerners — including Australians — operate across South Asia and South East Asia, including in alignment with ISIL. The heightened threat environment across Western Europe will likely continue for the foreseeable future, given the movement of foreign fighters with experience from the Syria  and Iraq conflict into Europe, and the potential ongoing presence of terrorist cells in Europe. Extremist groups including ISIL will continue to encourage lone-actors to conduct terrorist attacks in the West, particularly through social media. 

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Smart Traveller Website provides further information on the security environment of specific countries. 

Espionage and foreign interference

Espionage and foreign interference in, and against, Australia is also a constant feature of the security environment where Australian intelligence, military, diplomatic, scientific and commercial information will continue to be targeted. Investigation into cyber espionage activity, which impacts on important national interests in both private and government sectors and threatens Australia’s critical infrastructure, is an increasingly important part of ASIO’s counter-espionage effort. Raising awareness within both the public and private sector of the threat posed by foreign espionage or attempts by foreign interests to influence covertly the legitimate political processes in Australia remains an important element of ASIO’s work.