AFP assistant commissioner calls for data retention laws

Law enforcement agencies in Australia will continue to be stymied in their efforts to combat cyber crime unless measures such as proposed two year online data retention laws are passed, according to a representative of the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

Speaking at the Cyber Security Summit 2012 in Sydney, AFP Assistant Commissioner, Neil Gaughan, told delegates that data retention could help the AFP with investigation of internet protocol (IP) addresses which had been used to download child pornography content, the use of Facebook for activities such as grooming a child for sex or the promotion of terrorist activities and cyber crime.

“This information collecting relates to meta data which is the record of a telephone call or IP information,” he said.

“This is separate to the contents of the communication which, under [AFP] warrant, is recorded in real time by law enforcement.”

He added that the lack of data retention legislation in Australia meant the AFP could not present the best and fairest evidence gathered from internet sources in court.

“Without data retention laws I can guarantee you that the AFP won’t be able to investigate groups such as Anonymous over data breaches because we won’t be able to enforce the law,” he said.

In addition, the lack of specific mandatory reporting requirements for data breaches in Australia was a problem for information sharing on cyber criminal groups.

“Australian government agencies and certain industries are covered by the Privacy Act where we are required to report breaches of personal privacy, “ Gaughan said.

However, the Privacy Act does not require individuals to be notified when their personal information has being compromised or subjected to a security breach.

According to anecdotal evidence, he said there were “significantly more data breaches” in Australia that go reported compared to overseas countries where mandatory breach notification legislation is in place.

“I can understand why businesses are reluctant to report that [data breach] because it is an issue of reputational damage.

However, I think there is a lost opportunity to prevent attacks on victims, and, a lost opportunity for individuals to take mitigating steps to prevent data being compromised,” he said.

Gaughan floated the idea of a voluntary data breach regime where enterprises report breaches to a trusted information security agency such as CERT Australia for the purposes of information sharing.

He added that the lack of data retention and mandatory data breach notifications were not the only challenges being faced by Australian law enforcement agencies.

Investigation of cyber criminals, most of who operate overseas, was proving difficult for the AFP because of information sharing limitations with overseas law enforcement agencies.

“Electronic evidence is difficult to acquire in a timely manner and information exchange is limited to countries with developed infrastructure,” he said.

For example, Gaughan said the AFP’s High Tech Crime Operations unit was investigating a cyber intrusion into a small to medium business (SMB). The investigation started three years ago and it was still a “fair way” from resolution because the criminals are based in an overseas jurisdiction.

“For us to exchange information with the overseas law enforcement agencies is an arduous process,” he said. “Cyber criminals treat the fact that they operate in another jurisdiction as an opportunity to commit more crimes.”

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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