eCrime Symposium: Australia considers online crime portal

But really, we're still trying to figure this out.

Australia's attorneys-general are looking at the possibility of a central portal for reporting online offences. But vast slabs of the third annual eCrime Symposium currently being held in Canberra seem eerily familiar.

When former Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers Alastair MacGibbon and Nigel Phair organised the first symposium two years ago, I reported that the bad guys pwn the internet. Organised criminals, getting smarter daily, want your personal data. The good guys are under-resourced. We don't have a clear picture. And when the National Broadband Network rolls out, it'll get much worse.

Today MacGibbon and Phair are directors of the Centre for Internet Safety. The ID-stealing mob has been joined by secrets-stealing nation states. Add "cloud" and "mobility". The good guys are still under-resourced. We have some numbers, but they don't add up. And as the National Broadband Network rolls out, it'll get much worse.

In 2009 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) received 20,000 complaints about scams. In 2010, it was 42,000. In the first nine months of 2011 it had already hit 60,000.

More than a third of conference attendees had received one of those fake technical support calls. Microsoft reckons that a sixth of their call centre resources go to handling the fallout.

One security consultant told me about a hack where an organisation had $100,000 added to its phone bill yet the response from law enforcement was, essentially, "Bad luck, mate". Cross-jurisdictional issues were too hard.

The AFP estimates that online crime costs Australia a billion dollars a year. Another estimate was two billion. But then even that is less than $100 a head.

Caroline Pearce, head of fraud, risk and compliance for the Australian Payments Clearing Association, said that dodgy transactions account for just six cents per hundred dollars processed.

And then vendors pollute the landscape with strange statistics and we focus on potentially inflated claims.

There have been advances in the last two years, of course. We're working towards an international treaty, even if we're rushing through flawed legislation.

The Standing Council on Law and Justice (SCLJ), formerly the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG), is looking at that cybercrime reporting portal.

"It's clearly an initiative that will help us triage offences and will enable us to get a better handle on the types of issues ... that are coming up," Roger Wilkins, secretary of the Attorney-General's Department, told the conference yesterday. "Intelligence and information is one of the key things that we need to worry about."

"The US has one, the UK and New Zealand have a slight variation. In the US one there's sort of an automatic triage. I'm told it works tolerably well," he said.

But it's still just talk, and the money has to be found somewhere.

The eCrime Symposium continues today. Discussions will turn to the government's Cyber White Paper — submissions on which close next Monday 14 November.

Contact Stilgherrian at or follow him on Twitter at @stilgherrian

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Tags cybercrimeNational Broadband Network (NBN)Nigel PhaireCrime symposiumeCrime Symposium 2011Alastair MacGibboncentral portal

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