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Police seek more cyber muscle

Source: Australian Financial Review
By Rachel Lebihan
Date: July 19, 2003

Stop Cyber Crime The Australian Crime Commission is seeking greater powers for police and other agencies to identify and prosecute computer criminals as part of a national crackdown on cybercrime.

The commission has called for state police to gain the use of search warrants, currently reserved for federal agencies such as the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, which would enable police to monitor an individual or organisation's computer remotely.

The proposal, raised at a federal parliamentary hearing into cybercrime in Sydney on Friday, seeks new ways for police to track computer hackers as well as those suspected of child pornography, credit card fraud and money laundering.

Electronic warrants used by ASIO allow investigators to electronically access an offender's computer remotely, for the purpose of gathering evidence, for a period of up to six months.

Conventional search warrants are generally limited to seven days - or 48 hours for telephone warrants. Material seized can usually be retained for just 60 days.

But not everyone was happy with the proposed enhanced use of cyber search warrants, which some feel would give the police too many powers.

The Victorian Bar said such warrants were a powerful and intrusive form of search, which, under the ASIO Act, was limited to matters of national security. It was a different matter entirely to use them for routine criminal investigation.

Cyber warrants should be "appropriately confined to protection against threats to national security rather than being regarded as a desirable blueprint of general application in the wider law enforcement community," the bar said.

The chief executive of the ACC, Alastair Milroy, acknowledged that there was concern about the use of such warrants by police officers.

"We are conscious that there are privacy issues to consider," said Mr Milroy. "When ASIO got these powers I'm sure the same issues were canvassed."

Mr Milroy said the ACC was not advocating the use of these particular warrants, but considering what the future requirements of cybercrime police investigators might be.

"They could be another law enforcement tool in the future," Mr Milroy said.

He said the ACC, which replaced the National Crime Authority in January this year, was constantly reviewing all laws.

Original article: http://afr.com/articles/2003/07/18/1058035197739.html#top

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