New Aust taskforce to chase online fraudsters

A special taskforce to hunt down cyber-criminals has been formed by the Australian government together with the finance industry.Specialists from the country's major banks will be seconded to the Australian High Tech Crime Centre (AHTCC) to help investigate cases of "phishing.

A special taskforce to hunt down cyber-criminals has been formed by the Australian government together with the finance industry.

Specialists from the country's major banks will be seconded to the Australian High Tech Crime Centre (AHTCC) to help investigate cases of "phishing."

Phishing occurs when online criminals use legitimate-looking e-mails to trick people into divulging personal details of credit cards and bank accounts.

The Joint Banking and Finance Sector Investigation Team is also supported by the Australian Bankers' Association (ABA), Mastercard, Visa International and the Credit Union Services Corporation Australia Limited (CUSCAL).

Five staff from major banks in Australia will be joining the taskforce as well as financial resources from ABA, CUSCAL, Mastercard and Visa International.

National Crime Prevention spokesperson Simon Troeth said the Australian taskforce will be working closely with various international crime centres like the UK high tech crime centre, Interpol and Europol in as many as 26 countries to track down international cyber-criminals victimising Australians.

Troeth said the taskforce is easily reachable by all victims or customers through their state police, local bank branches or credit unions.

Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts Daryl Williams said the department had prepared a background document for consumers on phishing issues -- entitled "Phishing - Don't Take the Bait!" -- which contains practical advice on steps for consumers to protect themselves from phishing.

Chy Chuawiwat, TruSecure Asia Pacific business development director, said the taskforce is "a move in the right direction" especially with the focus that the government is giving on education.

"I think that's a good thing because it raises the profile of the whole issue and helps in stopping these activities. The most important component is the education they are offering. For instance in that Nigerian scam, the scammer was able to scam rich and intelligent people, that's why it is very important to educate everyone," Chuawiwat said.

He believes the strong cooperation between countries will help penalise international scammers victimising Australians.

"Precedents have been set for multi national jurisdiction and there is a strong cooperation between countries like US and UK for international scamming," Chuawiwat said.

A National Response Plan to fight cyber crime is also provided, with a mechanism for financial institutions to report phishing incidents to the AHTCC and the Australian Computer Emergency Response Team (AusCERT) for analysis and investigation.

"Today's announcement builds on the government's tough approach to fighting e-mail scammers by outlawing unsolicited e-mail under the Spam Act. The AHTCC is also working with the Australian Communications Authority to attack the problem of spam - a common vehicle for delivering phishing e-mails," Williams said.

A spokeswoman for Williams said the taskforce will complement the anti-spam act in Australia.

"As spam is a vehicle for phishing, the Spam Act will provide a good basis for reducing the incidence of spam-related attacks. People who send phishing e-mails run the risk of facing large civil sanctions under the Spam Act as well as significant criminal charges."

"The AHTCC works closely with the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) which has the responsibility for enforcing the provisions of the Spam Act. That cooperation extends to recently-announced positioning of ACA staff within the AHTCC in Canberra."

New offences will be introduced in the winter sittings of Parliament to cover credit and debit card skimming, whereby legitimate credit and debit card data is illicitly captured or copied, usually by electronic means. This offence will also cover Internet banking fraud.

The Australian Crime Commission, together with financial institutions, has also established a National Card Skimming Database to identify organised crime groups committing card skimming crimes.

The Trusted Information Sharing Network (TISN) includes government and industry representation to improve critical infrastructure protection, with the ABA chairing TISN's Banking and Finance Infrastructure Assurance Advisory Group.