Police urge international cybercrime cooperation

Harmonisation of laws required to remove cultural, legal barriers

International policing authorities have urged for greater harmonisation of cybercrime laws between countries to better share information and collaborate on global crime waves.

The Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT), a consortium of national police from eight countries, this week announced the conclusion of a worldwide investigation, which saw five people arrested and the take-down of 230 child exploitation websites. Operation Basket originated from a US-led investigation but required the coordination of multiple countries for its success.

However, according to two of the VGT’s board members, greater international collaboration is still required to ensure future successes.

“We want to expand our reach into different parts of the world that we’re currently in,” Australian Federal Police (AFP) national manager of high tech crime operations, Neil Gaughan, told Computerworld Australia.

“But obviously we need to do this slowly, take into consideration different cultures, the different capabilities of different countries and the difference in cultural and legal aspects of having new members on board.”

Though the taskforce has steadily grown to eight members since its inception in 2003, Gaughan said the recent induction of the United Arab Emirates had caused the board to reconsider the possible cultural and legal barriers to sharing information and carrying out similar investigations into the future.

“Some countries don’t allow for the free sharing of information like we do with the VGT partners," he said. "It’s not just a matter of embracing everybody.

“I think the addition of the UAE has changed the dynamic of the group. But I would say it’s probably one of the most progressive policing forces in the world. The fact that they’ve joined our group shows they're dead-set fair dinkum about catching up with the rest of us.”

Sergio Staro, senior police officer with the Italian National Police and a founding member of the VGT board, said investigators needed to speak the same language in order to avoid duplication of policing efforts globally.

“The work we carry out in Italy is just a drop in the sea,” he said.

However, the stark differences in Italy and Australia’s policing efforts into child exploitation and general cybercrime point to the difficulties of global harmonisation. Since February 2008, the Italian National Police have distributed a blacklist of up to 655 globally-hosted child pornography sites to the country’s service providers for implementation and filtering within six hours of updates.

Staro has pushed for the implementation of Italy’s filter blacklist in other countries and said global blacklist would be a “wonderful solution”. A similar system in Australia has been recently pushed back to the middle of 2013, with only Telstra, Optus and iPrimus committing to an interim child pornography filter in the meantime.

Gaughan said the issues of global harmonisation extended beyond filtering to information sharing between police authorities.

“We are hamstrung by legislation. If i had my way, it would be much easier for me to share information with my overseas colleagues by going through a mutual assistance request or something like that.

“Having law enforcement with the ability to share information more speedily than we do now would be significantly advantageous.”

It is believed talks between the “Quintet” of Attorneys-General - those of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States of America and the United Kingdom - have continued over a potential harmonisation of cybercrime laws. However, it is unknown whether these talks will progress to an international treaty in similar forms to the ACTA agreement recently signed over copyright infringement.

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAu

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Tags securityVirtual Global Taskforce (VGT)cybercrime

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