New Zealand Police e-crime lab to expand

New Zealand Police is to beef up its electronic crime-fighting efforts.

It will double its e-crime lab staff and expand the lab's role by July, according to national crimes manager Detective Superintendent Bill Bishop. He says the lab will also add a facility in the South Island, in either Dunedin or Christchurch, to its existing Auckland and Wellington labs.

"The lab will take on a training role for the districts as well so we can try to expand our understanding of computer-related crimes."

Bishop was responding to criticism of the Police and its unwillingness to respond to an apparent fraud attempt reported in Computerworld on April 2. According to Bishop, the issue in fighting such crime is one of its priorities. "We have to prioritize elsewhere. It's not an unlimited bucket, and there is very little public sympathy for victims of such a crime where they've given their credit card details to a porn site."

He claims there "hasn't been a single challenge to date that we haven't been able to meet" with regards to serious offenses but concedes there is a need to develop expertise in technical areas.

The scam reported in Computerworld involved a New Zealander harvesting credit card details posted to a bogus porn site. Bishop says no complaint has been laid with the Police in relation to the scam and he rejects suggestions that Police lacked the expertise to deal with the case.

Internet service provider (ISP) 2Day Internet Ltd. director Peter Mott, who discovered the alleged fraud, says it is good to see police boosting its e-crime effort but he would also like to see the department working more closely with ISPs. "That's where the real need lies," he says.

Currently the e-crime lab has five employees spread between Auckland and Wellington. In July, 10 more staff will be added to the roster, although they won't be sworn police officers, and will have a staff training role. "The extra people will be doing some work at a national level but the majority of work will be delivered directly to the districts."

Bishop wants to "acquire people with expertise and train them in the investigative area" rather than retraining investigators. "Our experience has been that we can take someone with technical qualifications or skills and develop them into a very competent investigator."

Bishop says the new focus on e-crime is partially the result of a recent Australasian police commissioners' conference that focused on the issue. "The Electronic Crime Strategy outlines the next few years and how we can best tackle the problems of electronic crime." One area the e-crime strategy report focuses on is cooperation with Police and non-Police agencies.

IT security specialist Shayne Bates believes cooperation is positive. "Police have recognized that they have to work in partnership with other agencies and that's an important move."

Bates, director of Auckland-based Bates Forensic, says police can only investigate if they have proof of a crime, whereas the burden of proof on civil cases is less and he can investigate on behalf of a client with only a suspicion of a crime.

Nevertheless, Bates says 10 extra staff is really only the tip of the iceberg and he would like to see the Police developing the e-crimes lab along similar lines to the Environmental Science and Research model. "Police outsource their DNA samples to ESR -- they don't try to do it all themselves."

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