AFP takes cyber safety to the people

Commander Glen McEwen says education and partnerships are helping to raise cyber safety awareness

A multi-faceted approach covering law enforcement, education and user vigilance is vital for cyber safety in Australia to succeed according to the Australian Federal Police (AFP).

The AFP made a submission to the Inquiry into Cyber Safety for Senior Australians in 2012 which stated that it was crucial seniors and young people are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to use information/ communications technologies safely.

Speaking before the Joint Select Committee on Cyber Safety in Canberra this week, AFP cyber crime manager Commander Glen McEwen said the law enforcement’s education program called ThinkUKnow was designed to educate Australians in both rural and urban areas.

On 4 March 2013 the Northern Territory Police announced that it had joined the ThinkUKnow program which aims to educate children, parents, carers and teachers about the risks faced online.

Prior to the NT Police joining the program, the AFP Cybercrime Prevention team ran a number of education sessions during 2011-12 with NT indigenous elders about how they could assist in protecting young people online.

“The elders were provided with a presentation outlying the dangers and there were discussions after the presentation to further assist in their education,” McEwen said.

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AFP High Tech Crime Operations crime prevention team co-ordinator Dr Jenny Cartwright, who also appeared before the committee, said that these meetings were backed up with the ThinkUKnow website where people could view an online version of the cyber safety presentation.

Cartwright was asked by the Committee if a pamphlet about ThinkUKnow could be included when computers or tablets are purchased in Australia.

She said that it had already partnered with not-for-profit organisation Work Ventures which sells refurbished cheap laptops and computers. Included with the refurbished computers is a mouse pad that includes a ThinkUKnow information booklet.

“There are three main themes in relation to the program,” she said.

“The first covers off online safety and is directed at children. The second aspect is how to stay in control such as what are the risks online and what people need to be aware of.”

The AFP made a commitment to provide Work Ventures with 500 mouse pads per month in July 2011. In addition, lap tops are sold with a sticker which has the ThinkUKnow website listed.

Cartwright added that the AFP was taking a “sustained approach” to cyber safety.

For example, ThinkUKnow educators will call on primary and high schools a number of times to make sure messages are ingrained.

“With information and education you are empowering the user themselves to take control of their online experience,” she said.

The committee also asked McEwen what he thought would be most successful in raising awareness to help change people’s behaviour.

“With this crime type it is preventative so users must be aware of the environment and the vulnerabilities that present themselves,” he said.

“The prevention of crime is a pillar of policing and it’s just a matter of increasing the awareness of others.”

On the subject of partnerships, McEwen said the AFP has a close working relationship with social networking site Facebook.

“Facebook are very open in relation to privacy settings and what can be done to narrow the exposure of personal data and information,” he said.

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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Tags cyber safetyThinkUKnow programAFP (Australian federal police)Joint Committee on Cyber-Safety

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