Cracking the hack

Cracking the hack

ISPs now have the weight of the law behind them to guard against hacker attacks, according to the head of a national Internet Service Provider (ISP).

Pacific Internet managing director, Dennis Muscat, said ISPs could seek guidance from the Criminal Code Act 1995 — and take appropriate action. He highlighted the recent arrest of a 17-year-old Brisbane youth for alledgedly accessing Pacific Internet’s computer system. The youth has been released on bail and will reappear in court on February 16.

Muscat said the trick to proper detection was speedy action and co-operation with the police.

In the case of the Brisbane youth, once the breach was detected, PI worked in concert with the Australian High Tech Crime Centre (AHTCC).

“It was a 24-hour turn around time, which is not typical in the industry,” he said.

There was no damage done to the system thanks to the file warning and network monitoring system, Muscat said.

According to a Pricewaterhouse­Coopers study, 47 per cent of Australian businesses have suffered from economic crime during the past two years.

An assessment by Australian computer security company, SIFT, said around one million Australian businesses were vulnerable to hacker attacks.

Many had no form of intrustion detection system, or didn’t even utilise a basic firewall for their external connections, SIFT said.

Guarding against computer hackers requires a swift network operations group that can offer enhanced surveillance activities and spot unusual occurences.

“If ISPs don’t have strong network operations and engineering areas, the integrity will be questioned,” Muscat said.

Once irregularities were picked up (whether an intrusion or infringement), ISPs need to escalate the situation and alert the proper authorities, he said.

“A lot of service providers don’t want to talk to the police, and we think this is a warning sign for industries,” Muscat said.

AHTCC director, Alastair MacGibbon, agreed and said one of the biggest challenges was encouraging people to report the incidents. “We recognise that the vast majority of these crimes are unreported to the police,” he said.

MacGibbon said ISPs needed to implement a three-step plan: set up a timely reporting system, ensure data capture procedures are in place, and have good follow-up procedures with the police.

“Like a fire evacuation drill, companies need various programs and tools in place — and make sure the logs are turned on to capture data,” he said.

Links to various police units can be found at

Muscat said ISPs needed to be vigilant.

“There are issues lurking underneath the surface of every ISP [spam and denial of service attacks],” he said. “Guard your borders very carefully, see the exposures — and take action.”

This message was also going out to resellers — particularly those reselling Internet services and telco services — who also needed to ensure the integrity of the network, Muscat said.

End-users, for their part, needed to be selective in choosing reseller parters, and make security — and not price — one of the key factors when choosing a partner, he said.

Along with the Code, ISPs and resellers can sift through a host of guidelines released by Standards Australia on August 12. Guidelines for the management of IT evidence offers tips on network security matters.

A security portal ( hatched by the Internet Industry Association aims to assist enterprises address the issue of information security.

The portal is supported by the National Office for the Information Economy, along with a host of vendors including Symantec, Bigpond and AusCert.

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