Identity theft begins in the home

Consumer printers and design software are now identity thieves' best friends, the Australian Federal Police commisioner says

The quality of printing and design software available to the consumer is now so high that criminals are using the technology to start up their own document forging businesses, a parliamentary joint committee on Law Enforcement has heard.

“These days with computer technology and printing available in the home, which is extremely high quality, we are facing a range of different threats [around identity theft and forging],” Australian Federal Police (AFP) commissioner, Tony Negus, told the parliamentary committee reviewing the agency’s 2009-10 Annual Report.

“That’s not to mention the professional forgers who may well look to do this to gain an income in their own right by providing very, very high quality documents.

"We have seen not just individual licences and birth certificates, but people who have whole portfolios or suits of documents which go toward proving a false identity, including passports and the like.”

While identity crime in general was serious, and found to be one of the major threats facing the public, it is also used to assist more dangerous crimes such as terrorism and drug trafficking.

“Whilst the offences around identity crime are serious in their own right — where people are caught skimming cards or manufacturing false identity documents to gain a financial benefit, that is one thing — but the fact is, it is used to facilitate crimes up to terrorism, drug trafficking and other things,” he said.

“That people can travel internationally on false passports and thereby evade law enforcement interest or intelligence collection is a significant vulnerability.”

Negus said that in despite of the fast changing nature of cybercrime, current legislation and methodologies are sufficient to allow the AFP to tackle instances of online crime but both would need constant reviewing.

"It is something we need to continue to look at as technology grows peoples’ ability to use online identities," he said.

"For instance, where you don’t necessarily have a paper or plastic document, is now used in banking and passwords and those sorts of things.

"With the Australian Crime Commission’s support, we have identified identity crime as one of the key vulnerabilities to the Australian community ... but we have not been made aware of any legislation that is lacking here in this country that we would look to implement."

Commenting on current identity crime-related projects, AFP deputy commissioner, Andrew Colvin, said the agency's identity crime strike teams were working on 20 active investigations, had six "matters" taken before the court, and this financial year finalised another 12.

The 2009-2010 report said a number of major changes to ICT within the agency during the year, including renaming its Information Services branch to Information and Communications Technology to “more fully reflect the responsibilities of the team and to reflect contemporary industry terminology”.

The AFP also appointed its first chief technology officer, and realigned the IT function into four branches: Chief technology officer, Business Engagement, Information and Communications Technology Applications, and Information and Communications Technology Infrastructure.

Noting major projects, the report said the agency’s desktop refresh project alone had delivered more than 4500 new desktops and laptops, while an ITIL-based Change and Release Management project, Green IT initiatives and the first round of Gershon Review efficiency dividends were also successfully implemented.

Follow Tim Lohman on Twitter: @Tlohman

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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