Australian Institute of Criminology

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Computer hacking is not a game

Media Release

15 June 1999

Media release from Senator, the Hon Amanda Vanstone, Minister for Justice and Customs

Minister for Justice and Customs, Senator Amanda Vanstone, today released the Australian Institute of Criminology's latest paper on computer based crime, ahead of a speech today to a national conference on computer crime.

"We are used to seeing computer hackers portrayed in the media as youthful idealists who are simply engaging in a bit of mischievous fun," Senator Vanstone said.

"It is absolutely vital that we realise that most computer crime is not harmless fun. Damaging digital data and communications has the potential to ruin businesses and to seriously affect national economic interests."

"Increasingly, criminals are using digital technology to commit crimes and attempt to hide their criminal activities."

"This criminal exploitation of new technologies presents serious new challenges to policing."

The AIC paper, What is Forensic Computing?, explains this new field of law enforcement specialisation and provides ground rules for investigators to follow. Forensic computing involves the process of identifying, preserving, analysing and presenting digital evidence in a legally appropriate manner to help ensure that prosecutions of those involved in computer-based crime can succeed.

"Forensic computing encompasses these four key elements:

  • Identifying what may be digital evidence
  • Ensuring digital evidence is preserved through the investigation process and that any changes to digital evidence are properly documented
  • Analysis of digital data
  • Presentation of digital evidence to ensure such evidence is admissible in a court of law

"The Federal Government takes computer crime very seriously. We want the community to understand that all computer crime, hacking included, is taken seriously by law enforcement agencies."

"The Institute's paper on forensic computing is an important part of our commitment to addressing computer crime."

"Our law enforcement agencies must be able to keep ahead of criminals who readily recognise the advantages of using digital technology such as smart cards and encryption technologies."

"As the AIC paper highlights, Smart cards may have the single greatest impact on the conduct of crime in our society. Smart cards have the ability to store, process, and secure significant quantities of data, and will add significant complications to law enforcement investigations. Developing the forensic processes and tools required to analyse and extract data from smart cards will pose challenges for law enforcement agencies."

"Encryption technology has been used recently by a paedophile frequenting the Internet to hide illegal images of child pornography. A Victorian based paedophile was discovered in possession of a quantity of computer images depicting child pornography. Some were encrypted with a commercially available product to disguise their nature during transmission via the Internet."

"The Federal Government is also addressing computer crime through the model criminal code process, a research group which is looking into the law enforcement implications of electronic commerce and will report on a framework to protect the national information infrastructure."