NSW Police reveals cyber hackathon winners

Seven top NSW universities battled it out to solve complex cyber challenges.

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Hackathon teams from Charles Sturt and Southern Cross Universities have been named the winners at this year’s inaugural NSW Police Force ‘Cybercrime Think Tank’, held on Thursday.

The event was the brainchild of senior NSW police executives, including chief information and technology officer Gordon Dunsford (#3 CIO50 2020), with support from Microsoft.

Students from five other NSW universities - University of New England, The University of Newcastle, Western Sydney University, Macquarie University, and University of Technology Sydney – were each given 10 minutes in front of an expert panel - including Dunsford - to present their solutions to two complex cyber security challenges:

‘How can we identify the ultimate beneficiaries of proceeds of crime received as cryptocurrency?’

‘How can individuals identify their vulnerabilities to cyber-attacks and make themselves more resilient?’

Charles Sturt took home the chokies for the cryptocurrency challenge, with Southern Cross bagging the gong for the cyber-attacks and resiliency category.

The hackathon comes as NSW Police – and forces throughout Australia and the world – step up their efforts in combatting cybercrime, which has become more sophisticated and pervasive across all areas of business and the community, especially during the pandemic.

“Cybercrime presents new challenges for law enforcement and we have to evolve in both our response and prevention tactics and increase public awareness,” Deputy Commissioner David Hudson, Investigations and Counter Terrorism said in a statement.

“This last year, we have heard of more and more online fraud and scam cases and our Cybercrime Squad are working diligently in this space to dismantle criminal networks who commit illicit activities online.”

Detective Superintendent Matt Craft, Commander of the Cybercrime Squad said the Think Tank demonstrated the value of getting students involved in shaping the future of policing, as well as giving them access to key executives and leaders in the online space.

“[It] allows us to tap into the minds of creative, disruptive thinkers and problem solvers, who may well be shaping the future of digital technology and policing, and even work for the NSW Police Force or other security agencies one day.”

The Cybercrime Squad was formed to lead NSWPF’s response to cyber-enabled and cyber dependent crime, and now has 70 specialist investigators providing specialist assistance to Police Area Commands, Police Districts and other NSW Police Force Commands.

For instance, as revealed by The CIO Show last week, Dunsford and his team have been working with investigators to develop AI-powered chat bots masquerading as young girls and boys in efforts to ensnare child sex offenders, while also easing the emotional toll such work typically takes on actual agents.

Several other key projects include harnessing AI to more efficiently scan massive volumes of CCVT footage, making officers safer and more effective in the field as well as applying digital tools to improve management of everything from DNA evidence libraries to gun registrations.

Also at the event on Thursday, NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services, David Elliott stressed the state has already made considerable investments into the tools needed to detect and thwart cyber criminals, but that it also needs to invest in its people.

“By engaging with the possible future generation of cybercrime investigators and security experts, our community can be assured that we will always be ready to face the challenges posed by modern day criminals,” he said in a statement.

In addition to the two awards, the Cybercrime Squad will also use the event to identify ‘talent’ amongst all students who took part with possible internship opportunities within the NSW Police Force.

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