Police target free email
By Simon Hayes
Date: July 21, 2003
THE Federal Police is talking with the major free email providers in the hope of making it easier to trace suspects who use the accounts for crimes like fraud and paedophilia.
The news came as an ex-NCA member suggested abolishing free email accounts as a way to better identify offenders online.
Admitting that the AFP had difficulty gaining access to subscriber details often stored with the US offices of email providers, Australian High Tech Crime Centre director Alastair MacGibbon said discussions were in train with the local offices of major providers.
His comments to the the Australian Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Australian Crime Commission's investigation into cybercrime came as other witnesses suggested 100 point checks for internet users and the abolition of free email accounts.
"While the ISP can provide that capability to someone sitting in Australia, the capability is more than likely somewhere in the US," said Mr MacGibbon. "How do we use our (Australian) powers to compell that ISP to give information."
Mr MacGibbon said free email providers' "head office in California" may not agree to delivering subscriber data to Australian police.
"We are in discussions with the major ISPs commonly used to see if we can apply Australian laws (to them)," he said.
While Mr MacGibbon did not name the ISPs involved in the talks, he did say that Hotmail featured prominently in many investigations due to the sheer number of accounts issued.
"Hotmail figures quite prominently in our investigations not because Microsoft is a bad company but because they have provided a good service that can be used anywhere," he said.
A Yahoo! spokeswoman said the company worked closely with police, but added that authorities had to go through the US for access to Yahoo US accounts.
A spokesman for Hotmail's local provider ninemsn was not available for comment at press time.
Former NCA member Greg Melick told the committee there was an easy way to eliminate the anonymity that protected criminals online.
"Do away with free internet (email) accounts," he said. "If they aren't free then people will pay by credit card and that gives law enforcement some starting point.
"Microsoft and others who provide these services have to be brought to heel."
Mr Melick also advocated a 100-point identification check for internet access accounts, saying a similar system had been established in France.
He said the French move - regarded in the European Union as a "flash of Gallic madness" - would only work if other countries supported it.
"There will always be rogue states that will provide an internet haven in the same way they provide a banking haven," he said. "This has to be seriously raised at an international level."
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission's director of electronic enforcement Keith Inman said law enforcement agencies had initially pushed for better identification of ISP subscribers, but had later compromised in favour of using caller ID to identify users.
He said ISPs were becoming increasingly strict on correctly identifying customers.
Original article: http://www.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,4057,6786644%255E15306,00.html
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