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AFP, Microsoft roll out predator tracking system

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) announced today that it will be rolling out a new investigative logistics system developed by Microsoft for its online child protection unit, only a day after Queensland police swooped on Australian members of a global paedophile network.
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Written by Marcus Browne on

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) announced today that it will be rolling out a new investigative logistics system developed by Microsoft for its online child protection unit, only a day after Queensland police swooped on Australian members of a global paedophile network.

The official rollout of the Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS) was announced in Canberra this morning by Federal Minister for Home Affairs Bob Debus and AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty.

AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty

"The CETS system will be adopted nationally by the AFP as part of broader efforts to combat child exploitation and better protect children in Australia and around the world from online exploitation," Keelty said in a statement.

"Today's announcement will strengthen the AFP's global online presence in actively policing the Internet community," he said.

CETS was developed by Microsoft in 2003 after Paul Gillespie, an agent in the US FBI, wrote to Microsoft founder Bill Gates "in desperation" after his team had become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data it was required to analyse as part of investigations into online child pornography rings, a spokesperson for the company told ZDNet.com.au today.

"We felt a responsibility to do something about it, so we had consultants work jointly with a number of police agencies across all sorts of jurisdictions to come up with a solution," said the spokesperson.

After two years of development and beta testing the system was unveiled in 2005, and is now operational in eight other countries including Canada, Brazil, Italy, Chile, Indonesia, Romania, Spain and the UK.

The system was designed to help officers by streamlining their investigations, fostering collaboration across various jurisdictions by providing a secure environment to share intelligence, data analysis and prioritise their enquiries.

"Microsoft has tailored this software specifically to this type of crime, there's a lot of capacity for database mining, IP tracking and all sorts of other information that people leave online," said Reece Kershaw, AFP agent and national coordinator of its Online Child Sex Exploitation Team (OCSET).

"[CETS] is a very, very useful tool to bring these types of offenders to justice, it's able to identify all kinds of linkages that lead to a successful investigation in real time and provides a forum to exchange that intelligence between agencies a lot faster," Kershaw added.

The system will also be deployed across the various state and territory police forces in conjunction with the AFP's rollout, with Western Australia and Queensland the first two individual states to commence the deployment, according to OCSET.

Today's announcement comes after Queensland police swooped on Australian members of a global online paedophile ring on Wednesday, after a two-year investigation coordinated by the FBI and a number of European law enforcement bodies, culminating in the arrests of two men and the discovery that ring members had been using high level encryption and security to protect their network.

"There's about a terabyte of information from that investigation that the AFP has to process, that's a huge challenge for any law enforcement agency," said Microsoft's spokesperson today.

While the time frame for the rollout of CETS to other states remains uncertain, it was revealed last night by the ABC that the NSW government has approved new measures allowing police to search computers networked to those listed on a search warrant, and seize hardware -- including memory sticks -- for up to seven days.

"As computer technology improves and becomes more sophisticated, the [state] government is determined to give police the power they need to deal with that sophisticated crime," NSW Police Minister David Campbell told the ABC last night.

Campbell said the powers would bolster investigations regardless of "whether it's gang related or fraud related, or whether it deals with those who pedal child pornography".

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