Gaps remain in local cybercrime law: Professor

Vague legislation around traditional trespass, fraud and theft crimes leave room for translation in an online environment

While Australian crime legislation has been amended to account for the evolving landscape of cybercrime, gaps remain in the key areas of theft, fraud and trespass, according to University of Technology (UTS) director of Communications Law Centre, Professor Michael Fraser.

Opening the Australian Federal Police’s (AFP) annual High Tech Crime Conference this week, Fraser commended the work done so far, but pointed to the gaps requiring further work.

“Commonwealth and the State crimes acts have been amended to include technology-specific crimes into legislation such as corruption, denials of service and spam, but there remain numerous instances where the Crimes Act may not provide adequate relevance,” he told conference attendees. “Traditional criminal laws of trespass, fraud and theft are not technologically neutral and run the risk of being ineffectual in the face of unique factual circumstances commonly seen in cybercrimes.”

As a result, Fraser said, those affected by such attacks in an online environment couldn’t rely on existing legislation and had to turn to other forms of legal recourse in order to resolve the issue.

AFP High Commissioner, Tony Negus, touted the reach of current Australian laws in opposition to those currently in place elsewhere.

“Some of the legislation in countries around the world doesn’t stack up with what we have in Australia, the US and the UK so it’s a challenge to work with the Eastern European countries, to try and bring them up to speed with what needs to happen to protect children in those areas as well,” he said.

However, Fraser said amendments to legislation were still required to keep up with the evolving threat landscape of cybercrime.

“As we have seen in the last five to ten years, the unique cyberspace environment has begun to challenge and stretch the traditional doctrines which are beginning to distort the issues and perhaps even frustrate the prosecution of cybercrime.”

Negus admitted that the nature of cybersecurity meant law enforcement agencies were continually playing catch up to meet the new threats posed by those who committed cybercrimes, particularly as traditional crimes and cybercrimes were often intertwined to some degree. The failure of international law - particularly in Eastern Europe - to meet Australian standards also limited the local capacity to act, according to Negus, as many of the attacks originated from overseas.

“The Virtual Globe Taskforce which the AFP chairs [is] a group of countries across the world who are committed to preventing child abuse in the online environment,” he said.

Fraser acknowledged international recognition of the issues, but said there would always be a lag in ratifying conventions and implementing local legislation.

The High Tech Crime Conference coincides with National Child Protection Week, which has seen the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) implement activities such as the Cybersmart Detectives program to promote security awareness and potential issues among children and parents.

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Tags Australian Federal PoliceUniversity of TechnologyHigh Tech Crime

More about Australian Federal PoliceCommunications Law CentreFederal PoliceUTS

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