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New Police Cyber Unit Offers Little to Industry

by Cameron Sinclair •
Free resource

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) recently opened an inter-agency cyber-crime unit in Sydney, known as the Joint Policing Cybercrime Coordination Centre, or JPC3. 

Appearing before Budget Estimates at the end of March 2022, AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw confirmed that the new hub will enable Australian police to coordinate their responses with state and territory law enforcement, and Commonwealth agencies, and the private sector. 

According to a search for the term ‘cyber security’ in Intermedium’s contracts database, the AFP have had little engagement with cyber security firms and the announcements on the establishment of JPC3 did little to suggest any change in this area.   

Only a handful of cyber security-related contracts have been let in recent years, mostly for labour hire. 

The largest contract is for just on $1.133 million over three years (2019-22) with CyberAnalytics and there are several one-year duration contracts which have been awarded to KPMG, CBR cyber and CQR Consulting. Deloitte has a two-year contract and US firm Intel 47 has also won a contract. 

Shearwater received a significant amendment to its original two-year contract with the AFP in March 2022, bringing the contract value to almost $600,000. Shearwater is a foundation member of Australian cyber security firm Cyber CX. Its Chief Strategy Officer, Alastair MacGibbon, had a 15 year career in the AFP. 

Plans for the new JPC3 were announced in a November 2021 media release

JPC3 will provide a permanent home for the various joint operational task forces that are composed of staff from the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, AUSTRAC, and state and territory police. 

Over the past three years these taskforces have included: 

  • Operation Ironside: a three-year covert joint operation with the FBI targeting global organised crime (including outlaw motorcycle gangs, Italian organised crime, and syndicates with links to Asian triads) by developing a ‘burner’ encrypted communications device, known as AN0M. 

  • Operation Zinger: a joint operation working with a foreign law enforcement agency to identify a criminal marketplace dealing in the online sale of cybercrime software. 

  • Operation Dolos: a joint AFP and state and territory police taskforce focusing on business email compromise. 

  • Operation Capertee: an ongoing investigation into large-scale, highly-sophisticated syndicate using malware to compromise bank and financial details. 

  • Operation Orcus: cross-agency taskforce to tackle ransomware crime. 

The JPC3 will be led by Assistant Commissioner Justine Gough, who will be the AFP’s first full-time executive dedicated to cybercrime. 

Kershaw noted that the JPC3 is funded from an additional $89 million over 4 years, announced in the 2020-21 Budget, provided as part of Australia's Cyber Security Strategy 2020. 

The opening coincided with the release of a revised national plan to combat cybercrime. This plan includes the establishment of a new National Cybercrime Forum to develop a Cybercrime Action Plan (page 14). 

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