ACORN launched to call out Australian cybercrime

The Australian government has today launched a new cybercrime reporting service known as ACORN.

Australians seeking to report a vast array of online criminal activities will be able to do so through a new one-stop website set up by the Australian government, known as the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN).

ACORN has been developed by CrimTrac and will be managed by the Australian Crime Commission, allowing Australians to report so-called cybercrimes including hacking, identity theft, illegal online content, and system attacks.

In announcing the site today, Justice Minister Michael Keenan said that the site will be a secure way for Australians to report the crimes, and will then allow the government to pass on the investigation to the relevant state or federal law-enforcement agency.

"No single jurisdiction can tackle it in isolation. It requires a coordinated national response," he said at the CeBIT GovInnovate conference in Canberra on Wednesday.

"The ACORN [will] collect and aggregate data on cybercrime in a way that is just not possible at present. The ACORN will better detect high-volume criminal activity. Law enforcement will be able to access a national picture about cybercrime. This will improve our tactical and strategic responses."

The government spent approximately AU$1.5 million in setting up the system, and will spend a further AU$930,000 on advertising the site, Keenan said.

"It is crucial that we protect Australia's digital economy, which is becoming a vital driver of our economy and provider of jobs."

It comes as the government has introduced three "tranches" of legislation boosting law-enforcement agency powers to gather data and investigate online crime. The third and most controversial "tranche" will require telecommunications providers to retain an as-yet-undefined set of customer data for two years. Keenan today denied that forcing the more than 200 Australian internet service providers to retain such data would make Australia a bigger target for cybercrime.

On Tuesday night, the House of Representatives passed legislation easing up reporting requirements for Australian telecommunications companies. The government made one amendment, however, and abandoned plans to stop requiring telcos to report when government agencies make requests for stored customer data under the Telecommunications Interception and Access Act.

Retaining this requirement will provide greater transparency over the number of requests each year that telcos receive for customer data. The attorney-general's annual reporting of the number of requests only details the number of requests made, not the number of telecommunications companies, and accounts affected by each request.

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