Ex-JAG prosecutor takes crime fighting skills to cyberspace

Norton's US Cybersecurity Institute set for intake of investigators from Australia

Fans of US naval prosecution show JAG: Judge Advocate General might be disappointed with the real life equivalent. There are neither jet fighter chases nor cases solved and prosecuted in 45 minutes.

However, in many other ways former JAG prosecutor, Adam Palmer, who now works for Norton US as a lead cybersecurity advisor, is much more interesting than his small screen equivalent.

Palmer said that in real life the JAG cases take a lot longer to investigate and are more challenging. “I never flew a jet like the character [Harmon Rabb] on the show, but that looks like fun.”

He got the job at Norton in February 2010 following a stint as a naval instructor assigned to a US Army legal unit that taught military attorneys about cybercrime. However, Palmer’s first brush with cybercrime was in 2001 when he won a prosecution case for the US Navy.

Palmer is based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and works for the vendor’s Cybersecurity Institute where he provides law enforcement agencies with training and expertise to stop cybercrime.

While the institute might be US-based, it has a global focus for cybercrime training with Australia high on the agenda.

“It is our hope to plan future activities in Australia and to support the work of Australian law enforcement in the fight against cybercrime,” Palmer said.

He admits that the Internet has turned the world “upside down” for law enforcement agencies.

“Crimes are committed faster and easier than ever before and they can use the Internet to freely cross international borders to find their victims,” Palmer said.

“Police everywhere are overwhelmed but doing the best job they can. Global law enforcement agencies are all facing the same challenges.”

Palmer said that Norton has a healthy dialogue with Australian law enforcement agencies and government organisations.

“Keeping the internet safe is a shared responsibility. Part of that is consumer education on how to stay safe online such as the Australian National Cybersecurity Awareness Week, and the other part is training law enforcement personnel who are on the front lines of the fight against cybercrime.”

His comments echo those of Stratsec chief executive officer, Tim Scully, who this week called for greater collaboration between government and the Australian security industry to fight cybercriminals.

Turning to the US operations, Palmer said that the Institute provides programs to train federal investigators, prosecutors and even law students. He explains that it wants to make sure current investigators have the necessary skills to be successful, while training the next generation of cybercrime fighters to be effective.

“In a recent Norton survey in the US almost 80 per cent of people indicated that they did not have faith in the legal system to bring cybercriminals to justice,” Palmer said.

“This is a real threat to faith in law enforcement. In the same survey almost two-thirds of people reported being cybercrime victims. Imagine if almost two thirds of citizens on a street in Australia were being robbed, this is what is happening on the streets of cyberspace.”

In the future, Palmer wants to get some of his old Navy buddies who worked on prosecutions, such as people at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), involved in the programs.

“The cornerstone of this program is that every segment of law enforcement needs to have the expertise and effective tools to fight cybercrime,” he said.

The institute is currently sponsoring programs to bring overseas law enforcement officials to the US for 90 day periods during which time they can work as a team with US law enforcement on cybercrime cases.

These investigators will than return to their home country with the capability to train others working in the cyber security field.

So perhaps comparison to JAG reruns are unwarranted; it’s more like the Internet Interpol that Eugene Kaspersky called for at AusCERT.

In fact, Palmer points out that Interpol already has a global anti-cybercrime group. “I believe we should focus on making groups like Interpol more effective rather than creating new groups to do the same thing,” he said.

Got a security tip-off? Contact Hamish Barwick at hamish_barwick at idg.com.au

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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