Cyber crime boss opens up on post-Snowden policing

The revelations of international government spying programs by Edward Snowden have permanently changed the nature of policing and thrown up a range of new challenges and obstacles, according to Australian Federal Police high-tech crime boss Tim Morris.

One new challenge in particular, Assistant Commissioner Morris told delegates at yesterday’s CeBIT conference, is a new level of sensitivity to data sovereignty and varying models of information regulation, which he insists must relax if modern law enforcement is to keep pace with cyber crime.

“Our traditional notion of evidence and jurisdiction is going to have to be challenged,” he said.

“Right now because a cloud server might have its four points attached to a bit of soil in California, this means officially that data is held in the US. For law enforcers this means a long and convoluted process of what we call mutual legal assistance – which can take weeks and months to process.

“There is no way this approach can keep up with the contemporary investigation process that we face today.”

The “post-Snowden era” has also heightened public concern about government surveillance, with parties such as the Australian Greens working hard to curb the amount of citizen telecommunications metadata that is freely available to the AFP and law enforcement and intelligence peers.

Morris defended the use of metadata, claiming that without it, many investigations would simply not be worth pursuing.

“Attribution is probably the key to all successful cyber investigations, and it is becoming increasingly difficult,” he said.

“In our interconnected world it’s not just cyber investigations that need attribution, it is virtually very sort of criminal investigation from rape to murder to kidnapping…That’s why you will probably hear agencies such as ours go out and talk about the importance of metadata.

“If we don’t satisfactorily have a capacity to attribute, then many investigations just won’t be worth taking on in the first place.”

Morris also warned of what he called a ‘very real and pressing’ threat – a so-called “black swan event”, such as an electronic attack on Australia’s financial markets.

“Cyber criminals are looking at ways now to exploit markets everyday. So watch this space,” he said.

He urged business, particularly the financial sector, not to fall into the trap of releasing applications and other products with undercooked security in an effort to be first on the market.


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