Australia toughens cybercrime laws

Conventional thinking

Australian carriers and ISPs will be forced to retain customer’s private data such as email and text messages by police and authorities, without a warrant, if it is required for investigations into cybercrime.

The requirements are part of legislation introduced to strengthen cyber security laws and enhance Australia’s ability to combat international cybercrime.

Attorney General Robert McClelland said the new laws will preserve private data, which today is typically held briefly.

In contrast with previous proposals, which would have required the industry to preserve all customer data, the new legislation proposes preservation requests. These will give law enforcement time to seek a warrant, according to McClelland/

"In other words it prevents the information evaporating over the electronic ether," he said.

This year Australia's Senate criticised earlier data-retention proposals, saying the government needed to justify the collection and retention of personal data.

The Government’s Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill 2011 brings Australia in line with the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, the only binding international treaty on cybercrime.

The Convention provides systems to facilitate international co-operation and investigations between participating countries including: empowering authorities to request the preservation of specific communications (sans warrant); allowing authorities from one country to collect data in another country; establishing a 24/7 network to provide immediate help to investigators; and facilitating the exchange of information between countries.

More than 40 countries have either signed or become a party to the Convention, including the US, UK, Canada, Japan and South Africa.

McClelland said that in the last six months , Australia’s Computer Emergency Response Team has alerted Australian business to more than a quarter of a million pieces of stolen information such as passwords and account details.

“While Australian law substantially complies with the obligations in the Convention, the Government believes there is more we can do to ensure Australia is in the best position to tackle cyber threats that confront us, both domestically and internationally,” he said.

Brendan O’Connor, Minister for Home Affairs and Justice, said the Convention covers crimes committed via the internet and other computer networks, dealing particularly with computer-related fraud, child pornography and violations of network security.

“Consistent with the Convention, the Government’s Bill establishes procedures to make investigations more efficient and provide systems to facilitate international co-operation,” he said. ®

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