Hi-Tech Crime to Score $20m in Budget

Julian Bajkowski

The Australian Federal Police and Australian Crime Commission will receive around $20 million in new funding in the forthcoming federal budget to spearhead high-technology based counter-terrorism capabilities and security measures to be coordinated by a newly formed High Tech Crime Centre.

The new centre will oversee all functions of computer and technology-related investigations and intelligence centralised into a single unit based in Canberra, with officers based in all states and territories and a number of strategic posts overseas.

Computerworld understands that the current AFP functions of computer forensics, technology and computer-based crime and computer-crime related intelligence collection and analysis will be galvanised into the new, single structure, High Tech Crime Centre. The new centre will also report directly to the recently formed Australian Crime Commission, an amalgamation of the now defunct National Crime Authority and Australian Bureau of Criminal Intelligence rather than the AFP. The move is to ostensibly allow greater administrative and strategic autonomy, but is almost certainly designed to share the costs burden across the states.

Police currently employed in positions on secondment to the AFP for computer and high-tech crime — almost all of around 30 positions — are also being asked to re-apply for their current positions and roles within the new context.

Critical Information Infrastructure roles currently based within the Attorney General's department also looks set to be given a substantial boost of around $5 million to help facilitate the formation of secure information-sharing protocols between a range of critical-infrastructure, private industry stakeholders and the government.

The high-tech activities requiring the additional funding have been prominently mooted at a number of security conferences over the last two weeks by AFP brass. AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty told a Homeland Security Conference last week that the AFP had been forced to make "radical adjustments" in terms of organisation, post-Bali.

"It is no longer sufficient that Australia can monitor terrorism — we must now focus on interruption," he said.

Keelty told Computerworld that, "Technology is growing and it's only just possible to keep ahead of those you need to be ahead of. . . you need to be ahead of these technologies to stay ahead of your adversaries."

Commissioner Keelty refused outright to speculate on budget funding outcomes. The offices of the Treasurer and the Minister for Justice also refused to comment.

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