• United States



by Dave Gradijan

New Zealand Police Planning Cybercrime Center

Jul 18, 20064 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

New Zealand Police plan to establish a high-tech crime reporting center, in partnership with other government agencies, such as the Center for Critical Infrastructure Protection and the Department of Internal Affairs, said Maarten Kleintjes, head of the New Zealand Police Electronic Crime Laboratory.

Industry partners, such as banks, telcos, credit card companies and ISPs, will also be involved. The center will deal with complaints proactively, he said.

The plans also include establishing a dedicated cybercrime unit, as Kleintjes’ team of 12 police officers with technology expertise can’t keep on top of the ever-increasing volume of work. The first stage of the center will be complete in December.

“This needs to happen,” he said. “The police have difficulty with having sufficient technology knowledge within the police force to deal with high-tech crimes.”

New Zealand Police are “certainly up there with the rest” in fighting e-crime, said Kleintjes. But it is hard to keep up with the growth of technology-related crime. To keep on top of it, the police have developed tools that allow officers to examine, for example, a hard drive without having to be a forensic expert.

“Of course, there are cases where forensic expertise is still required, but in 80 percent of the cases, detectives could search, for example, a hard drive themselves, and that would reduce our workload considerably,” he said.

As to how well the law keeps track of the relatively young phenomenon of e-crime, Kleintjes said there are now specific computer crime charges. Previously, offenders would be charged with “abuse of the telephone line” when they had actually broken into someone’s computer overseas, he said. However, the police require more legislative changes.

“We need to be able to search a computer from a remote location,” he said. “We want to be able to search computers in cyberspace. If the crook has access to information [on a remote computer] we should be legally allowed to search it, regardless of its location.”

Another issue is that search warrants for electronic devices don’t cover overriding passwords, so the providers of electronic devices are not required by law to give the overriding password to the police. Providers often refuse to give up the password, but offer to look through the device themselves, and if they find something suspicious, to hand it over to the police, Kleintjes said.

“It is an absurd situation, and it needs to change.” The police are currently in discussions with the Law Commission regarding these issues.

Phishing, trojans and sophisticated methods of ATM skimming are common e-crime offenses, Kleintjes said. Cyber bullying and cyber harassment are increasing, and not just among texting teenagers, but across the board, he said.

The e-crime unit also often investigates transnational crime that might involve traffic being filtered through New Zealand, but without the victims or offenders being in New Zealand. He said that cooperation between international police agencies is good, which is essential when fighting crime in the borderless cyber world.

There are things people can do to avoid becoming victims of e-crimes such as ATM skimming and phishing scams. Choose a bank that has robust security in place, said Kleintjes, and make sure that your own computer has updated security software and firewalls. It’s also a good idea to keep two computers at home: one for dealing with less secure matters and one for e-mail, online banking and other secure actions.

Wireless networks are a huge risk, especially for travelers, Kleintjes said. Hotels, for example, usually don’t set up encryption because it is too complicated.

“If you have got encryption on your wireless network, you have got some protection,” he said. “But if you are using the wireless network in a hotel, for example, everything goes past in plain text. Anybody that can receive the signal from your laptop can see all the data. They don’t even need to decrypt it.”

He recommends travelers use a third-generation device instead.

“Stick with the cable network, if you can,” he said. “But if you have a home wireless network, enable encryption on it.”

By Ulrika Hedquist, Computerworld New Zealand Online

Keep checking in at our Security Feed for updated news coverage.