Australia Creates a Cyber Intelligence Unit to Monitor Internet Crimes

Although Australia doesn’t appear on any of the notable lists of countries most affected by cybercrime, the Australian government has set up a cyber-intelligence unit for “unprecedented” national security threats. The new unit will specialize in identifying terrorism financing, money laundering and financial fraud on the internet.

Australia’s Financial Intelligence Unit –  the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre or AUSTRAC – will be launching the team, Minister for Justice Malcolm Keenan said in a statement. ID Care, Australia and New Zealand’s national identity theft service and the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network will be coordinating with AUSTRAC in identifying common patterns and themes in financial scams.

“We know that the national security threat to our nation and globally is unprecedented and modern technologies are presenting new and evolving threats – none more so than from malicious cyber activity,” he says. “We know that the use of fraudulent identities continues to be a key enabler of serious and organized crime and terrorism.”

In AUSTRAC’s “Terrorism financing in Australia 2014” report, they point out that terror groups have moved to online transactions for illegal funding. It was becoming more difficult for law enforcement to track and was expected to rapidly grow. For the most part, Australia has recently been growing more capable of fighting crime and this team is no exception. Australian police are going to be employing FBI-like facial recognition in October.

Internet crime, including deepweb related activities, are nothing new to the Australian federal government either. We reported on new software and $25m funding to combat illegal firearm sales, both in the real world and online. Several Australian law enforcement agencies have been involved in major deepweb busts, including the latest catch: “Britain’s worst pedophile ever.”

Unlike the United States, Australia considers bitcoin (and other digital currencies) to be a valid form of money and suggests that the government impose regulations. In 2006, the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing Act was introduced and it helped initiate the recent focus on cybercrime and online terrorism.

“While digital currencies have undoubted legitimate uses, the transfer of convertible digital currencies can occur without passing through the formal financial sector. This provides another tool for criminals and terrorist financiers to move and store illicit funds beyond the reach of law enforcement and other authorities and purchase illicit goods and services.”

In April, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the Australian Government’s Cyber Security Strategy and the newly founded team plays an integral role in the program, successfully creating 100s of new specialist jobs and integrating several government branches.

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