A rise in the popularity of "cloud computing" systems could pose new security threats and a legal minefield for law enforcement agencies, a technology expert has warned.
Cloud computing allows users to outsource their computer software and storage requirements over networks to IT specialists, reducing costs and simplifying the use of the system. But such systems have been identified as a potential problem for law enforcement, with questions raised over issues of jurisdiction, privacy and security.
Edith Cowan University security and network technology senior lecturer Andrew Woodward said police might have trouble locating and accessing cloud computer servers, securing co-operation from other jurisdictions and recovering data if a cloud system failed. There were also potential privacy concerns and he believed it would pose problems in the future because the popularity of cloud systems was on the rise.
"The Computer Crime Act in WA is quite comprehensive but that only applies to WA, it's not going to allow you to step on to foreign soil," Dr. Woodward said.
WA Police specialist crime portfolio commander Paul Zanetti said offsite storage in other jurisdictions raised questions including about the integrity of the data and privacy and meant investigators needed to deal with other jurisdictions and different laws when locating evidence.
"Our computer crime squad regularly partners with industry groups, universities and law enforcement agencies nationally and internationally to develop strategies to deal with issues such as this, and in reality, whenever technology creates challenges for law enforcement, it also tends to give investigators new tools and methods to investigate and prosecute criminal activity."
An Australian Institute of Criminology report, released in October 2010, highlighted concerns over virtual eavesdropping, data theft, Trojan-style attacks whereby keystrokes were recorded, attacks on websites designed to cripple legitimate websites and systems, espionage and potential threats to national security.
Report author Kim-Kwang Raymond Choo said cyber criminals might also establish "rogue clouds" that could be used to store and distribute criminal data, for example, child pornography.