New cybercrime laws to land today


Federal Attorney-General Robert McLelland this morning revealed the Gillard Government would today introduce tougher laws tackling cybercrime, unifying Australia’s approach with international legisation in the process.

The Cybercrime Legislation Amendment Bill (2011) will, according to a statement issued by McLelland this morning, enable Australia to accede to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime. The Government has been working towards this objective for some time, seeing the convention as the only binding international treat on cybercrime.

McLelland said over 40 nations had either signed or become a party to the convention, while 100 were also using the convention as the basis to strengthen their own legislation to combat cybercrime.
“As we exchange more information online, cybercrime is becoming a growing threat to individuals, businesses and governments,” McClelland said. “In the last six months alone, 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, allowing them to rectify and protect against potential attacks.”

“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.

The European convention, according to McLelland, empowers law enforcement authorities to request specific communications (for example, email) to be preserved, with access to be subject to a warrant in Australia. It also helps authorities from one country to collect data in another, establishes a 24×7 network to provide immediate help to investigators, and facilitates the flow of information between countries.

Minister for Home Affairs and Justice Brendan O’Connor 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.

“This is an important step to increasing the powers of Australian investigators to effectively combat cybercrime with increased international cooperation,” he said. “The changes will ensure that Australian legislation is consistent with international best-practice and enable domestic agencies to access and share information to facilitate international investigations.”

The news comes at a time when IT security is coming to forefront of the public consciousness due to a series of high-profile sustained attacks on infrastructure, as well as successful cyber-attacks on government and corporate interests.

For example, several of Australia’s major banks and a number of government agencies last week confirmed plans to replace tens of thousands of unique token authentication devices as a result of a break-in at US vendor RSA Security. In late March it was reported that at least ten parliamentary computers, including those belonging to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, had been hacked.

In addition, Sony’s PlayStation Network has recently been down for about a month through April and May after hackers broke into its network, in a security breach which could have affected more than 100 million online accounts.

Image credit: Office of the Attorney-General


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