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Undergound. Go to Table of Contents.

   Who is on the other side these days?


   In Australia, it is still the Australian Federal Police, although the

   agency has come a long way since the early days of the Computer Crimes

   Unit. When AFP officers burst in on Phoenix, Nom and Electron, they

   were like the Keystone Cops. The police were no match for the

   Australian hackers in the subsequent interviews. The hackers were so

   far out in front in technical knowledge it was laughable.


   The AFP has been closing that gap with considerable alacrity. Under

   the guidance of officers like Ken Day, they now run a more technically

   skilled group of law enforcement officers. In 1995-96, the AFP had

   about 2800 employees, although some 800 of these worked in `community

   policing'--serving as the local police in places like the ACT and

   Norfolk Island. The AFP's annual expenditure was about $270 million in

   that year.


   As an institution, the AFP has recently gone through a major

   reorganisation, designed to make it less of a command-and-control

   military structure and more of an innovative, service oriented



   Some of these changes are cosmetic. AFP officers are now no longer

   called `constable' or `detective sergeant'--they are all just `federal

   agents'. The AFP now has a `vision' which is `to fight crime and

   win'.3 Its organisational chart had been transformed from a

   traditional, hierarchical pyramid of square boxes into a collection of

   little circles linked to bigger circles--all in a circle shape. No

   phallo-centric structures here. You can tell the politically correct

   management consultants have been visiting the AFP.


   The AFP has, however, also changed in more substantive ways. There are

   now `teams' with different expertise, and AFP investigators can draw

   on them on an as-needed basis. In terms of increased efficiency, this

   fluidity is probably a good thing.


   There are about five permanent officers in the Melbourne computer

   crimes area. Although the AFP doesn't release detailed budget

   breakdowns, my back-of-the-envelope analysis suggested that the AFP

   spends less than $1 million per year on the Melbourne computer crimes

   area in total. Sydney also has a Computer Crimes Unit.


   Catching hackers and phreakers is only one part of the unit's job.

   Another important task is to provide technical computer expertise for

   other investigations.


   Day still runs the show in Melbourne. He doesn't think or act like a

   street cop. He is a psychological player, and therefore well suited to

   his opponents. According to a reliable source outside the underground,

   he is also a clean cop, a competent officer, and `a nice guy'.


   However, being the head of the Computer Crimes Unit for so many years

   makes Day an easy target in the underground. In particular, hackers

   often make fun of how seriously he seems to take both himself and his

   job. When Day appeared on the former ABC show `Attitude', sternly

   warning the audience off hacking, he told the viewers, `It's not a

   game. It's a criminal act'.


   To hackers watching the show, this was a matter of opinion. Not long

   after the episode went to air, a few members of Neuro-cactus, an