Tech minnows must be lifted to calm cybercrime: ASPI

In a region that spans the gamut of 'world leading' to trailing nations in the use of technology, it is in Australia's interest to help those fallen behind to catch up, the head of the International Cyber Policy Centre at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute has said.

While a patchwork of cyber-haves and cyber-have-nots exists across the Asia-Pacific, bad actors will take advantage of the laggards, head of the International Cyber Policy Centre at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) Dr Tobias Feakin said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the Australian Information Security Association conference in Sydney, Feakin advocated for attempting to close down what he described as "cybercrime safe havens".

"That clearly should be a focus of Australian efforts, because it will damage Australian businesses in the longer term if those are not addressed," he said. "What we are seeing is highly permissive environments being created for criminals to act, both physically and online.

"It's incredibly attractive if you can base yourself in a particular country and conduct various criminal activities without real fear of retribution, arrest, or disruption."

A member of the panel who created Australia's Cyber Security Strategy, Feakin said many nations lack the skill set necessary to do something about cybercrime, and it provides an opportunity for those with the skills needed to help out.

"It requires better technical forensic skills than most regional police forces have. It also requires an educated judiciary who actually understand the severity of the crimes being conducted, how to actually prosecute on the basis of evidence that they are actually given.

"Co-operation is going to be key here in building some of the minnows in this region up -- countries like Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Papua New Guinea."

As part of the Cyber Security Strategy, the Australian government committed AU$47.3 million to opening up Joint Cyber Threat Centres and an online threat-sharing portal.

The first pilot centre is set to be opened in Brisbane before the end of the year, executive manager of CERT Australia Dr Carolyn Patteson said.

Last month, Clive Lines, deputy director of the Australian Signals Directorate and coordinator of the Australian Cyber Security Centre, said regional countries are looking to Australia for information security services and education.

"In a post-Snowden environment, they don't want to buy from the US. And they don't want to buy from Europe, because they don't feel that Europe services the region properly. Now there are always exceptions to that rule, but it's quite interesting that they've been absolutely adamant that they want to collaborate with Australia, they want to buy services from Australia, and they want to get education from Australia," he said.

"If you run a new cybersecurity centre, you have what we call 'cyber tourism'. We've actually had a lot of regional countries come and visit us."