​Commonwealth's cybercrime body received 39k reports in 2015

The federal government's cybercrime reporting network received close to 40,000 reports of online criminal activity last year, with online fraud and scams accounting for almost 50 percent of the 2015 total.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network (ACORN) received over 39,000 reports of criminal activity from individuals and organisations in 2015, with online fraud and scams accounting for 49 percent of the year's total.

Additionally, 8,368 of the 39,000 incidents that the ACORN was made aware of last year fell under the online trading label with the netowrk saying this was mainly due to the increasing uptake of conveniences such as online shopping.

"Many instances of cybercrime go unreported because victims either do not know where to report, don't think it's worth reporting, or are reluctant to do so," the ACORN said. "As Australia's reliance on technology grows, and online shopping remains an increasingly attractive option for busy Australians, the cost and incidence of cybercrime is expected to increase."

The ACORN is a national policing initiative of the commonwealth, state, and territory governments that encourages Australians to report instances of cybercrime online, whilst also providing advice to help people recognise and avoid what it calls common types of cybercrime.

Since its launch in November 2014, the ACORN said email, social networking, and website advertising have been the top three reported online channels used by cybercriminals to target their victims.

ACORN said Victoria received the highest number of cybercrime reports, closely followed by Queensland and New South Wales. 40 percent of the victims that reported cybercrime incidents were between the ages of 20 and 40, and 38 percent were aged 40 to 60.

On its website, the ACORN tells Australians to report anything they see as suspicious online, including phishing emails asking for personal information such as bank account details.

In a report released on Monday by the Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner, it was found that young people are increasingly creating impersonator accounts to bully, incite violence, or make sexually suggestive, rude, and offensive remarks online.

The Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner was launched last year by the Australian government to appropriately deal with content that has been posted on social media sites in the country.

The department, headed by eSafety Commissioner Alastair MacGibbon, has the power to force large social media companies, such as Twitter, to remove content deemed to be of a bullying, offensive, or illegal nature. Those that do not comply face fines of AU$17,000 per day.

According to the eSafety office, in the six months ending December 31, 92 cyberbullying complaints were resolved with the related content removed in less than eight hours. More than 2,500 children were also referred to the Kids Helpline counselling service.

5,561 investigations were carried out online by the office, and the department also worked with 50 international partners to remove over 4,000 URLs which contained child sexual abuse material.

"These accounts may not only damage the reputation of the child who has had their identity misused, but also harms others who are targeted by the cyberbullying coming from the account," MacGibbon said.

"'As an Office we will continue to provide support for young people and the community, to enable them to have positive experiences online. We look to the next six months for bigger challenges, as online risks and threats evolve."

The federal government has previously committed a total of AU$2.4 million over four years to create and run the eSafety commissioner's office, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

In October, the eSafety office released statistics on its first three months of operation, which saw the office complete 2,057 investigations into illegal online material, most of it child abuse material, with content removed from the internet within one to three working days through the INHOPE network.

The eSafety office handled 40 serious cases of cyberbullying and referred more than 600 children to the Kids Helpline.

MacGibbon's office also previously announced partnerships with Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, Twitter, Yahoo Groups, Yahoo Answers, and Ask.fm, all of which are cooperating to take down seriously harmful material in less than 12 hours.

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