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Data sovereignty laws hamper international crime investigations: AFP

Hamish Barwick | May 9, 2014
International cyber crime police work is being hampered by data sovereignty laws, according to Australian Federal Police's national manager of high tech crime operations, Tim Morris.

Morris said law enforcement agencies must be an "active competitor" and "exploit technological advances" to identify offenders and arrest them.

Operation Lino

An example of where the AFP, together with international counterparts, has been an active competitor against cyber crime was Operation Lino.

This exercise involved police from 13 different countries and eventually led to 7 professional wrestlers being arrested in Romania in October 2012.

According to Morris, the Romanian wrestlers purchased malware from underground Internet forums in 2011. By using targeted attacks, they gained access to up to 500,000 Australian credit cards by defeating the security at just five retail outlets in Australia.

Approximately 30,000 of those credit cards were used for fraudulent transactions amounting to more than $30 million.

"We identified two main attacks," said Morris. "The first was targeted port scanning of Australian Internet protocol [IP] ranges and the second was direct targeted attacks on Point of Sale [POS] locations to related support companies to obtain remote access credentials to client systems housing EFTPOS environments."

The stolen credit card data was then used to create false credit cards enabling counterfeit transactions to be carried out in the Australia, United States, Europe and Hong Kong.

"Instead of approaching this like a traditional crime where you identify the offenders and try to assemble the evidence back in Australia, we sent the data and the evidence to the Romanian police cyber crime unit. They were able to identify the group and lock them up," said Morris.

"This is where there is hope, ladies and gentleman, because this group was a bunch of professional wrestlers. Police investigating wrestlers, I think we can do it," he joked.

Reporting cyber crime in Australia

To help Australians report cyber crime, Morris announced that later in 2014 AFP will be launching a national online reporting portal called Acorn.

"This will be aimed at citizens who think they have been the victim of a cyber crime and would like to report that online. Hopefully one of the by-products of Acorn will be a better look at the rates of cyber crime around Australia."

 

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