Parliament puts e-crooks under microscope

Australia's new Cybercrime Act is already under review as part of a parliamentary inquiry announced this week that is aimed at stemming the rising tide of credit card and banking fraud.

Three of Australia's big four banks have been the target of hackers in recent weeks and Australian Crime Commission committee chair Bruce Baird (MP) said it's his "ruthless intention to get tough on cyber-crime with a strong focus on fraud".

Baird said the cost of fraud is on a steep upward trajectory. "Modern criminals don't need guns, a standard laptop and strong knowledge of network security is all that's required and we need to make sure the law keeps up."

The existing legal framework especially the Cybercrime Bill 2001 will come under scrutiny and Computerworld understands the banking industry is driving the inquiry due to a lack confidence in the Act and the ability of the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to combat credit card fraud.

To date there has not been a single conviction by the AFP under the Act although there has been some success by the NSW Police computer crime unit.

However, law enforcement sources from a number of agencies say current problems with cybercrime are less legislative and more about resources and willpower. A number of police forces are known to have issues with banks about the way cybercrime is frequently buried by a lack of support for prosecutions.

"It's a risk position you have to respect, but it certainly doesn't make the problem go away," a police source said.

"If nobody is prosecuted [the banks] have to share some responsibility for the growing problem. I'd put it to them that not everyone [engaged in criminal activity] who comes to their attention is reported [as a matter of course] and ask them what they do."

Banks are not compelled to give evidence at the inquiry but Computerworld understands that at least two of the big four banks are considering submissions the deadline for which is May 9.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee is seeking submissions from people involved in the application of cyber technology in business, banking and finance, and communications and those who are involved in protecting the Internet and computer-based data.

The terms of reference include child pornography and paedophile activity; banking, including credit card fraud and money laundering and threats to national critical infrastructure.

Baird is confident the inquiry will receive some "incredible evidence" on trends and methods used in cybercrime; hearings are set to start later this year.

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