ASIC appoints cybercop

Looking to turn up the heat on Internet fraudsters, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) has established a dedicated electronic enforcement division.

In creating the new unit, the organisation has appointed Tim Phillipps, previously NSW director of enforcement, to front its attack on electronic corporate crime.

Phillipps said ASIC has formed the Electronic Enforcement unit in a bid to leverage emerging technologies as the spearhead of its surveillance activities and will especially rely on automated search tools to keep on top of Internet-enabled financial fraud.

"It's more about positioning, it's more about creating a very particular presence. That's really what it's about. We're trying to build our technical capacity to conduct surveillance and awareness work on the Internet, to do some more automated searching of Web sites and bulletin boards and so on," he said. "The other side of it is actually putting some policy together on when we will litigate, when we will take enforcement action, when is it appropriate to prosecute, how do we actually go about doing that, do we need legislative change and that sort of thing."

Citing ASIC's recent Federal Court Action against a local online investment advice site (www.chimes.com.au) as an example, Phillipps said ASIC is looking to the new business unit to cement its position on the technological, legislative and enforcement issues surrounding online fraud.

"[The case against www.chimes.com.au] really brought home that there needs to be a level of expertise in dealing with these issues. While we can cope with the technological issues and we have, we believe, adequate legislation to make all these things happen, the question is physically making that happen in a practical enforcement environment. How do you go about capturing all these things? How do you go about convincing a court how the Internet works and why providing investment advice on a bulletin board is the equivalent of distributing flyers on the street? That's the issue, and I think we've demonstrated the need to build that expertise in-house and focus on it," he explained.

"Part of the challenge for us is to determine how big the problem really is and to make the technological tools work in that way as well."

ASIC's Electronic Enforcement unit will initially be staffed by six people with a mixture of technical, legal and investigation skills.

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