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COMPUTER EXPERTS DRAWN INTO CRIMINAL WEB By TRUDY HARRIS. CRIMINALS are recruiting telecommunications employees to commit high-technology fraud, extortion, piracy and money laundering, a soon-to-be-published book by Australian Institute of Criminology researchers says. The book warns law enforcement agencies may be unable to cope with the increase in crimes on the Internet and telecommunications networks, which are becoming increasingly sophisticated and undetectable. The researchers say evidence exists employees in the telecommunications industry are lending their skills to criminals or are leaving the industry to pursue "lucrative" crimes themselves. "There is evidence of telecommunications employees either being involved in the commission of offences or at least lending their expertise to others to do so," they say. The crimes include tapping into the EPTPOS and ATM systems to divert money, shutting down company computer systems to steal funds and electronic money laundering. The book also suggests online drug deals could be carried out. The book, by AIC head researcher Dr Paul Grabosky and researcher Dr Russell Smith, says law enforcement agencies need boosted resources, expert training and co-operation to combat such computer crime. The researchers identify a range of crime trends including "cyber stalking" - harassment over the Internet - and publishing pornography and instructions for illegal practices on the Internet. They cite one case involving a student who composed a sadistic fantasy and sent it over the Internet using a fellow student's name. A West Australian academic was also targeted for comment on the Internet and successfully sued. Another case involved a nurse who tapped into her hospital's information system to change patient records, including prescription dosages, date of discharges and X-ray schedules. They say the Australian Federal Police attributes an increase in bombing incidents in recent years to greater availability of information on explosives. They warn penalties need to be stiffened to curb these and other crimes such as computer hacking, piracy and vandalism. The book cites one example of a hacker, caught infiltrating NASA's computers, the CSIRO and the University of Melbourne, who received only a suspended sentence and a community-based order. The researchers urge companies, universities and individuals to take preventative measures against such crimes. "It is even suggested that the applications of telecommunications to terrorism may one day rival the more traditional techniques of bombing and hostage taking," the book says. It says fighting the crimes is difficult because of a reluctance by corporations to report them, often due to embarrassment over security scares. "Some are concealed by authorities because disclosure could prove embarrassing or commercially inconvenient to victims." The book, Crime in the Digital Age, is released this month ahead of an AIC conference on Internet crime featuring papers by law enforcement officers, policy-makers and academics. (c) Nationwide News Proprietary Ltd, 1998. AUSTRALIAN 20/01/98 P3