Australia is intensifying co-operation with Thailand on cybercrime in a bid to boost regional commercial security.
In Bangkok on an official visit with senior leadership of the Thai Royal Police, Australia’s first Ambassador for Cybercrime Tobias Feakin signed an agreement with Thailand that will see the two countries work together in the face of growing challenges posed by cybercriminal networks in Asia.
“Criminals and nefarious actors can adapt and absorb all [this information] so much quicker than governments,” Feakin told AAP. “So if we’re not talking about it, sharing best practice, and keeping on the move as well, then we will soon find ourselves behind by quite a margin.”
Australia will also provide support in “cybercrime digital forensic development” to the Thai Royal Police, national security, and foreign affairs officials.
Australia already co-operates with Thailand through the Royal Thai Police and Office of Narcotics Control Board, based on threats by transnational criminals, including Australian biker gangs linked to drug trafficking.
Thailand is also a base for securities fraud operators, known as boiler room share scam, where foreign expatriates, including those from the UK and the US, target Australia and New Zealand investors scamming thousands of dollars in fake online investments.
Feakin said co-operation was directed to “upskilling the digital forensics capability of the Royal Thai Police” to ensure evidence was credible when presented at court.
“To get the evidence, how you secure it, to a degree that it is admissible in a court and then, what is your investigative processes to actually try and fine the individual or group who may be responsible,” he said.
Officials told AAP that support to Thai police was a “cornerstone of digital forensics about capturing electronic evidence on various devices, how to process and extract data” in the wake of what it called increasingly transnational crime investigations centred on the use of digital media for communications and the storing of information by organised crime gangs.
The agreement with Thailand comes after the recent signing of a pact between Australia and Singapore on cybersecurity, which includes the exchange of information, training, and joint exercises in safeguarding critical information infrastructure.
The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on Friday during the second Singapore-Australia Leaders’ Summit in the city-state, which was witnessed by both prime ministers — Singapore’s Lee Hsien Loong and Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull.
The two-year agreement — led by Singapore’s Cyber Security Agency — will see the countries work together on several key areas, including information exchange on cybersecurity incidents and threats, sharing of best practices to drive cybersecurity innovation, and training in relevant skillsets.
Australia agreed to enhanced cybersecurity cooperation with China in April, which will see neither country conduct or support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, trade secrets, or confidential business information with the intent of obtaining competitive advantage against each other.
Both countries also agreed to act in accordance with the reports of the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts on cyber, including the norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace identified by those reports, a statement from Turnbull said.
In addition, the two countries agreed to establish a “mechanism” to discuss cybersecurity and cyber crime issues, in a bid to prevent cyber incidents that could create problems between Australia and China.
“What you saw through the agreement that we signed with China was an acknowledgement that it needs to be a key part of discussions together,” Feakin said this week. “China is a huge economic partner. There are some [similarities], there are some differences.”
“[The fact] that we got to a point of signing an agreement which said we agree to not conduct cyber-enabled intellectual property theft — I think it’s a good point.”
The Australia-China cyber cooperation arrangement follows a meeting between Turnbull and Premier Li Keqiang during the latter’s visit to Australia in March, which raised cyber-enabled intellectual property theft issues.
The March meetings included the establishment of a memorandum of understanding on intellectual property that was signed between the State Intellectual Property Office of the People’s Republic of China and IP Australia.
The Australian government also signed a formal “Dialogue on Innovation” agreement with China in March that will see both countries exchange ideas between government representatives, business, and the research sector.
Under the arrangement, both countries will contribute up to AU$6 million over three years to the next round of the Joint Research Centres, under the Australia-China Science and Research Fund (ACSRF), which supports strategic science, technology, and innovation collaboration considered of mutual benefit to both countries.
It is expected the funding will focus mainly on advanced manufacturing, medical technologies and pharmaceuticals, and resources and energy.
Similarly, Australia signed a treaty-level Science, Research, and Innovation Cooperation Agreement with the New Zealand government in February that will see the countries work together to tackle chronic disease, advance general health care, and improve the accuracy and availability of GPS signals.