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Information Law

Updated on June 18, 2013

Dealing With Cybercrime in Australia

Cyber crime involves criminal activities conducted using the internet and both the computer together with the individual behind it are victims. The Australian Institute of Criminology (2011) finds cyber crime to include fraud, hacking, money laundering and theft, cyber stalking, cyber bullying, child sexual exploitation, child grooming and identity theft. The crimes mostly go unreported making it hard to quantify (Australian Institute of Criminology, 2011). However, the most common cyber crime incidents remain malware code and virus attacks that corrupt software.

The Australian Cyber crime Act which was assented in 2001 and commenced on 2 April 2002 added new offences streamlined to check on those kinds of cyber crime that impair the security, integrity and reliability of computer data and electronic communications. They are; a) Unauthorized access, modification or impairment with intent to commit a serious offence, b) Unauthorized modification of data where the person is reckless as to whether the modification will impair data, c) Unauthorized impairment of electronic communications. There is a maximum penalty for these offences. Investigation powers relating to search and seizure of electronically stored data have been increased (Find Law Australia, 2012). Culprits of cybercrime can ignore the realms of Australian jurisdiction and launch an attack from anywhere in the world or even design attacks that seem to come from foreign sources. Approaches like this make legal and technical involvement of investigating and prosecuting cybercriminals more difficult.

A major problem facing cyber crime investigations involves how to determine the jurisdiction where court proceeding shall take place, especially when offenses have been committed in different nations or where the suspect’s and the victim’s location are not the same, in this case, which court should handle the issue could be a major problem. There might be problems of extraditing the offender from a different country if charges come from a victim in Australia and this makes prosecution very difficult There’s also the problem of ‘negative international jurisdiction’ which Russel (2004) describes as cases which fail to be investigated because one of the many countries can prosecute it, but no action is taken by any of them since none is willing to, and there are also instances where several countries want to prosecute a certain case. To avoid this situations, an international body has to be created to deal with negotiating jurisdiction and it will be responsible for describing the best way of how jurisdiction is determined in these cases (Russel, 2004).

A recent observation revealed shocking statistics that over the past 12 months alone, cyber crime has cost Australia a staggering $1.65 billion, social networking and smart phones being targeted. It indicates that 37% of Australians were victims to cyber crime and one in ten fell victim to bogus link or scam on social networking websites and less than 50% applied any form of security protection as prevention to threats on social networking (Connelly, 2012).

Bringing culprits to book has been a challenge because some cyber crimes go undetected by their victims or hidden from or not reported to authorities since its disclosure might be embarrassing or even commercially inconvenient to concerned victims.

Cybercrime, being transnational in character has been a major challenge to law enforcement officials in Australia to effectively go after the culprits but the Act has now provided legal tools such as cyber crime offenses to be used in prosecuting cyber criminals and rules that govern investigation. However, gaps in the law could be taken advantage of by the offenders to avoid being apprehended and prosecuted. Some cyber criminals who threaten Australia’s cyber space come from countries that don’t have computer crime laws, since the perpetrator might be physically in one country but wreaking havoc in another. This frustrates the efforts of investigators in obtaining a warrant so as to search the house of their key suspect, other countries also have no statutes that criminalize cybercrime such as spreading of computer virus or breaking into a computer system. The culprits in these countries take advantage of this to engage in cybercriminal activities. Australian law enforcement officials have no capacity to take action against cybercriminals unless those countries first enact laws that criminalize cyber crimes.

As much as the use of computers brings the threat of cyber crime into one’s home, office or business, and the Australian cyber crime Act 2001 has specified penalties to offenders which in some way might prevent such crimes, some measures if properly observed have the potential of reducing cyber crime at individual and national level. They include:

Installation of Security software and regularly updating it, obtaining a strong password that is changed at least bi annually, turning on updates that come up automatically so that all your software gets the most recent fixes. One should also ensure that links and attachments are not suspicious before clicking on them and has to protect his/her identity online. An individual has to be careful in sharing personal or financial information. Moreover, each country has to examine its penal and procedural law so as to know if they are satisfying in dealing with cyber crime. There has to be international cooperation in dealing with cyber crime since it is a transnational problem.

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