Australia’s first International Cyber Engagement Strategy was launched on 4 October 2017 in Sydney. We investigate Australia’s plans for stronger cybercrime prevention and prosecution as detailed in the strategy, with a particular focus on the Indo-Pacific.
Exploitation of vulnerable states by cybercriminals
Cybercrime refers to crimes directed at computers, such as illegally modifying electronic data or seeking a ransom to unlock a computer affected by malicious software. It also includes crimes where computers facilitate an existing offence, such as online fraud or online child sex offences.
Cybercriminals look to exploit the vulnerabilities of states who have yet to fully develop the legislative and technical capabilities needed to fight cybercrime. Through or from these countries, cyber actors can conduct criminal operations with a very low risk of being identified, investigated or prosecuted.
In 2016, more than half of the world’s internet users were found in the Indo-Pacific, but only 1.8 billion of the region’s 4.1 billion people are yet online. This digital potential combined with the rapid spread of technology will produce a growing target audience for cybercriminals to exploit.
It is stated in the International Cyber Engagement Strategy that “it is in Australia’s interest to help our neighbours improve their ability to prevent and respond to cybercrime. Doing so will underpin regional economic growth and create a safer environment in which Australian businesses can prosper.”
Raising cybercrime awareness in the Indo-Pacific
Australia has implemented programs to raise cybercrime awareness in the region. Cyber Safety Pasifika (CSP) is a cyber safety and cybercrime education program led by the Australian Federal Police (AFP). CSP delivers cyber awareness to Pacific Island countries, including Tonga, Nauru, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
Assisting Indo-Pacific countries to strengthen their cybercrime legislation
The International Cyber Engagement Strategy states that “another effective way to respond to cybercrime is through a combination of stronger domestic legislative frameworks within countries and greater harmonisation of cybercrime legislation between countries.”
Australia is working with partners in the region to help strengthen their legal frameworks to address cybercrime, making it more difficult for cybercriminals to conduct their operations and increasing the risk of prosecution.
Australia also advocates for having similar conduct criminalised in all jurisdictions, to facilitate international cooperation on cybercrime. This ensures that criminals cannot evade justice by simply crossing borders.
The Budapest Convention
Australia has been a party to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime (the Budapest Convention) since 2013. It is a valuable mechanism to strengthen international cooperation on cybercrime, allowing countries to work together more effectively on trans-border investigations and prosecutions.
Australia works with countries in the region interested in acceding to the Budapest Convention by helping them achieve the required legislative reform. For example, substantial support from the Attorney-General’s Department contributed to Tonga’s recent accession to the Convention.
Pacific Islands Law Officers’ Network
Australia is also helping regional neighbours strengthen their cybercrime legislation by working with the Pacific Islands Law Officers’ Network (PILON). PILON is a network of senior law officers from across the region that addresses law and justice issues common to Pacific countries. PILON’s Strategic Plan 2016–2018 recognises cybercrime as a priority legal issue.
Delivering cybercrime law enforcement and prosecution capacity building in the Indo-Pacific
Cybercrime legislation is not effective without the ability to enforce it. Australia is safer when countries in our region have the capacity to respond to cybercrime.
The capacity of countries to investigate and prosecute cybercrime varies greatly in the Indo-Pacific. Australia is working to close the gap through its Cyber Safety Pasifika (CSP) program, partnering with law enforcement agencies in the region to enhance their capacity to address cybercrime.
Collectively, our region is only as resilient as our weakest link. It is in Australia’s interest to help our neighbours improve their ability to prevent and respond to cybercrime, and a number of mechanisms are currently in place to achieve this.
Nyman Gibson Miralis provides expert advice and representation in complex international cybercrime investigations. Our expertise includes dealing with malware, phishing and computer hacking offences, bootlegging and tripping, Bitcoin and crypto-currency fraud, as well as offences relating to identity theft, spreading computer viruses and DDoS attacks.
Contact us if you require assistance.