Police will never be able to move as fast as online criminals, says one of Australia's top crime fighters. Businesses and individuals must learn to better protect themselves.
"The good guys have to abide by the rules," said John Lawler, chief executive officer of the Australian Crime Commission (ACC), at the third annual eCrime Symposium in Canberra yesterday. "The criminals have got no rules, no morals. They'll just trash anybody and everybody to make money."
The prosecutorial approach — gathering evidence, preparing a brief, mutual assistance with international law enforcement agencies, extraditing offenders and so on — is "just out of the game", Lawler said. "The volume and extent of offending is such that that sort of response is doomed to fail."
Over 2400 Australians lost more than $93 million to just one fraudulent investment scheme. Individual losses ranged from $35,000 to $4 million, sometimes representing their entire retirement savings.
"The fraudsters aren't Australian, have never been to Australia, and nor will they ever come to Australia," Lawler said.
"There will always be exceptions — high-profile cases and particularly unique cases — where prosecution will be attempted," he said, "where for deterrent purposes you'll put a head on a stake somewhere, and I'm an advocate of that — not literally — where that becomes important for community confidence."
"I think the game we're in now is about disruption and prevention," Lawler said. "I think it is absolutely essential for governments, for businesses, for the individual, to have the proper controls in place to prevent, or to harden the environment against, the cyber attack."
Organisations must have audit controls, for example, particularly for digital information, and robust governance. They must understand security risks in their full complexity, both technical and human factors.
"That message hasn't, I think, permeated — certainly in business — to the extent and level it needs to," Lawler said.
While law enforcement would always and rightfully be held back by the "inhibitor" of following the rules, Lawlor does believe there is an opportunity to move faster by sharing intelligence with the private sector, including internet service providers and security vendors.
"There's a whole spectrum of people here who have skin in the game that actually need to be brought together, in a lawful way, that data can be shared and pollinated across one another to develop a strategy that's actually got some profound long-term impact," he said.
The Australian Crime Commission Act 2002 currently prevents the ACC from sharing intelligence with the private sector.
There have been successes, however.
The national Criminal Intelligence Fusion Centre, launched mid-2010, has already identified 59 criminal targets previously unknown to law enforcement. Some of them, the ACC will allege, have been involved in laundering more than $100 million.