Filter cops criticism in cyber-safety commitee

Industry slams Internet filter, calls for cyber-safe cirriculum

Telecommunications providers and Internet advocate groups have called for more funding to educate Australian Federal Police (AFP) and state law enforcement on lawful data interception and cyber-safety.

Representatives from Telstra, Internode and the Internet Industry Association spoke at a joint select committee on Cyber Safety today of deficiencies in police knowledge of technology including when and how to sequester user data, the fallibility of mandatory Internet content filtering and the need to overhaul school curriculum to include classes in online cyber safety.

Telstra director of corporate security and investigations, Darren Kane, said the AFP should receive additional government funding for education.

"Education needs to be done at the recruiting and training stage, so we don't end up with officers unfamiliar with technology at the front of house," Kane said.

Internode regulation general manager, John Lindsay, said police are "difficult to engage" regarding the regular instances of telecommunications fraud that ISPs are subject to each year, through stolen subscriber connections.

"We desperately want to see law enforcement adequately resourced," Lindsay said.

"We take problems to the Federal Police and to state police... and they essentially make the call that they do not understand it or it is too hard, or [that] Internode is a really big company so you haven't really been hurt, [that] it's only $100,000. We have a lot of difficulty when fraud has been perpetrated effectively against Internode."

The comments come ahead of an Australian New Zealand Police Advisory Agency meeting between industry including the Internet Industry Association (IIA) and Australian and New Zealand law enforcement to discuss means to combat the proliferation of child pornography.

IIA chief, Peter Coroneous, said industry would “update” police on underlying cyber security problems, beyond “symbolic responses” such as the Federal Government’s proposed Internet content filter.

Cyber-safe schools

Cited representatives including members from industry groups including Symantec, Yahoo!, Netbox Blue, and the Safer Internet Group told the committee that cyber safety should be part of school curriculum.

Telstra’s Kane likened cyber safety awareness to sex education in stating that it should be taught during the early schooling years.

He said the Federal Government’s Youth Advisory Group generated an “enormous amount of useful information”, and urged more direct consultation with children in the formulation of cyber safety policy.

“We need consistent relevant and memorable education for children [that] maintains safe behaviour while delivering education campaigns.”

Respondents proposed formal cyber safety classification schemes which could resemble a ‘tick’ awarded to organisations, technologies and schools that meet as-yet undescribed cyber-safety standards.

A Symantec representative proposed a community education program similar to the Safety House Stranger Danger campaign, which would essentially apply the scheme to the Internet and sites such as Facebook.

Filter irks industry

The Government’s Internet Content Filter was attacked by committee respondents, some who also lamented the Howard Government’s now scrapped NetAlert scheme.

Coroneous, also the former director of the then government-owned NetAlert company, said the PC-based Internet content filter was the most “well-researched and resourced” project of its kind.

“Mandatory content filtering does not meet the level of protection offered by PC-based filters,” Coroneous said. “It does not address the time children spend online, the search terms they use, or their use of peer-to-peer, or the risk of online contact [with strangers].”

Kane said “parent control” technologies like content filters are ineffective because they can be bypassed by many tech-savvy teenagers.

Web filter vendor Netbox Blue education director, John Pitcher, said the Government needed to better inform parents that mandatory content filter technology is a “base point” it needs to be layers with other security and parental controls.

A Yahoo! representative said it voluntarily filters searches according to blacklists held by the likes of the UK’s Internet Watch Foundation, but dubbed the Government’s mandatory filter “heavy-handed”.

“This is not about child pornography, it is already illegal to host it, there is a broader scope and that is the area of contention,” she said.

“We would remove any content deemed illegal, bestiality, child pornography, maybe self-harm sites.”

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Tags cyber security

More about Australian Federal PoliceFacebookFederal GovernmentFederal PoliceIIAInternet Industry AssociationInternet Watch FoundationInternodeSymantecTelstra CorporationYahoo

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