Cloud computing hinders foreign data collection: AFP

The AFP has admitted technological advancements present a challenge in obtaining data from foreign jurisdictions

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has identified rapidly developing technology as a key source of frustration, with the advent of Cloud computing making it more difficult to obtain data from foreign jurisdictions.

Appearing at a joint parliamentary select committee on cyber safety, AFP manager of investigations at the High Tech Crime Operations unit, Grant Edwards, said police were in a constant struggle to keep pace with the use of "high technology" in crime.

In particular, the intricacies of Cloud-based computing and the storing of data in foreign jurisdictions made it difficult to obtain data for later analysis.

“That’s something the government along with the AFP are working very robustly on trying to address," he said. “It comes down to speed and access to gain that information in an expeditious matter or quarantine it in an expeditious matter and then use it in an evidentiary process… They’re the key elements in making our job easier.”

Brad Marden, a detective superintendent of the crime unit, also identified Cloud computing as a key source of struggle in speaking to attendees of the Australian Computer Society Discover IT 2011 conference in Canberra.

“If there’s a number of terabytes of data hosted on a number of Google servers or, worse still, hosted on a sever, how do we capture that data? We really don’t have that answered yet."

Marden said the ongoing battles faced by the AFP in sharing data between state police authorities within Australia, let alone globally, were difficult enough.

“It has to go through a mutual legal assistance process, through the Attorneys-General. It can take up to five years to get data from a foreign jurisdiction,” he said. "If six months is old school, can you imagine waiting five years to get the data? Chances are your current hardware won’t even be able to read the data by the time you get it, so we’ve got to speed up that process to share information with agencies around the world.

Australia is expected to shortly accede to the European Cybercrime Convention, a treaty signed between 40 countries that would make it easier to share data. However, some have raised criticisms of the treaty, claiming it would enforce internet service providers to retain customer data for up to three months.

A spokesperson from the Attorney-General's office noted a number of proposed reforms to the process which are designed to promote more responsible and flexible measures to secure international crime cooperation.

“Some of the benefits of those proposed reforms would be to streamline the process for providing lawfully intercepted material and covertly accessed stored communications to allow for covert access to stored communications and surveillance devices, and the provision of existing telecommunications data on a police to police basis, which is particularly valuable,” the spokesperson said.

Follow Chloe Herrick on Twitter: @chloe_CW

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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