Cyber-crime is a crime in which computer is used as a tool to committhe offence.It’s a most common offence all over the world especially in HKfor recentyears.
Cyber-crimes have become a real threat today and are quite differentfrom old-school crime, such as robbing, mugging or stealing. The criminals canuse their knowledge to gain benefits quickly and easily without having to do anhonest day’s work and even physical presence. In this essay, I would like to focuson cyber deception in cyber-crime and discuss whether traditional lawenforcement agencies equipped well to deal with cyber-crime. Laptops and smart devices, such as mobile phones and tablets, bringus a convenient access to the internet. With the high penetration rate ofmobile devices, it’s without doubt that cyber-crime has become one of the most commontypes of criminal cases nowadays. Cyber-crime can be in various forms, verydangerous and complicated,such as social media deception, identity orinformation theft, E-banking fraud, ransomware attack targeting hospital,government or large business, network intrusion to hack competitor’s website andeven cyber-terrorism.
Recently, there was an information breachcase in a famouslocal travel agency, in which 20,000 customers informationwas stolen duetoransomware attack.1Thelaw enforcement agencies in Hong Kong handle more than thirtythousandcrime casesevery year. According to the statistics from the Info Security Office of the government2,the total number of computer crime cases in Hong Kong grew rapidly for the pasteight years. In 2009, there were 1506 cases related to cyber-crime in Hong Kong.The figure gradually increased to around 1600 next year and kept an average 35%increment the following two years.
There were 3015 cases recorded in total in2012, which was double the total number of cases in 2009. The trend was evenworse after 2012. There were 5133 casesin 2013, 6778 cases in 2014, 6862 cases in 2015 and 5939 cases in 2016. Thedramatic growth on the case numbers shows us that the computer crime isgetting more and more common in recent years.Though the number becomes steady now,it’s still putting high pressure on the law enforcement units.The portion of cyber-crimecases is weighing a lot and needs our great concern. Apart from the statistics on totalnumber of cases, we should be aware of the huge financial loss every year dueto these technology offences.
In 2009 & 2010, there was only 45.1 and 60.38million Hong Kong dollars financial loss caused by cyber-crime. Later in 2011and 2012, the total financial loss was doubling the previous year. In 2013, itwas 916.9 million dollars, even triple of 2012. Then in the following years,the amount of financial loss was worsening, 1200.
68 million dollars in 2014,1828.9 million dollars in 2015 and 2301 million dollars in 2016. The above figures reveal that cyber-crime is truly affecting oursociety and puts high demand on the law enforcement agencies.The traditionallaw enforcement targeting crime3involvesanswering calls from the 999 hot-line and patrolling our communities lookingfor occurring crimes, which have been working in Hong Kong for decades.However, it is obvious that cyber-crime cannot be noticed while patrolling inthe communities. The traditional policing is mainly effective in the realworld. Due to the continuous growth on the cyber-crime rate, the governmentand law enforcement agencieshave adopted various strategies to combat thosedeception cases occurred in HK. The Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau(CSTCB) is established, updatedfrom the former Technology Crime Division,totackle with cyber security issues and carry out technology crimeinvestigations, computer forensic examinations and prevention of technologycrime.
4 CSTCBis also responsible for maintaining close liaison with local and overseas lawenforcement agencies for combating cross-border technology crime. There are now238 people working in CSTCB to maintain the cyber security level. CSTCBinvolves in crime investigation depending on the complexity of the technologycases.
For high-end and complex technologies crimes, CSTCB performs a leading rolein the investigation. But for those with low level of technological elements,CSTCB only provides assistance in collecting technological evidence or adviseson technological issues. It is interesting that CSTCB also performs cyberpatrollingon the internet to address cyber-crime. Cyber patrol is mainly for searching informationthrough public platforms on the internet. CSTCB will not retain any statisticalfigures of the web pages browsed.
They conduct professional search for via socialplatforms according to their operational priorities and analyze the possiblecrime-related information got. Technology changes thelife we live, also brings transformationto traditional crime. One of theeasiest ways to take advantages of the online world is deception. The deceptioncases in first ten months of 2017 weighs more than 12% of the overall crimerate.5Cyber deceptionhas no boundaries and requires less cost.It becomes one of major offencesrecently.
For example,an employee of logistic company received phone and emailcommunications from an existing trusted vendor. The vendor asked them to make apayment on several invoices to a new account at a different bank. When thecompany transfers the money to a new account which is from a fraudster who hadhacked the vendor’s email account, then the business will lose all the money.
Eventhey report the case to the police, it’s hard to chase the fraudster because ofphysical location and the difficulties of identifying the real offender of thecrime. Through network investigation, IP address of the offender’s computercan be captured in routing traffic on various servers. The IP address onlyhelps on finding the computer, but not the offender’s identity. Since it’scommon for a family to share the same computer and the targeting IP could befrom an internet cafe which means even harder to spot the offender. If the IPaddress is from overseas, then the investigation will depend on the severitylevel of the crime. Hong Kong Police solely responsible for enforcing lawsinside the territory, any crimes beyond the boundary require assistance fromlocal police force. Laws differ from country to country so that geographic jurisdictionis such a big issue while handling cyber deception. Another point we need to consider is the difficulties ofinvestigation and prosecution in the cyber world, which is more sophisticatedcompared to real world crime.
Most ordinances in Hong Kong under existing lawlegislation can be applied to the cyber world of the internet. There are fiverelevant legislation targeting on cyber criminals, i.e.
Access to computer withcriminal or dishonest intent, Destroying or damaging property, Unauthorizedaccess to computer by telecommunicationscontrol of obscene and indecentarticles ordinance and Prevention of Child Pornography Ordinance.6Thelaw protects our citizens’ human right with the presumption that a person isinnocent until proven guilty in a fair trial. Then the burden of proof falls tothe prosecution.As we can imagine, it’s always hard to find any witness ofcyber-crimes.
Therefore, it’s imperative to keep the integrity of the digital evidenceto convict somebody of an offence beyond reasonable doubt. Digital evidence canbe obtained from the examination by an investigator. However, when it comes tothe original structure of digital evidence, its binary format is just a seriesof one and zero represented by magnetization, radio and light pulses. Thisnature of digital evidence makes it fragile, easy to amend and even lost.
Forsophisticated criminals, they may have the ability to setup automatic programto destroy the evidence while third person access is detected. Finally, the high workload of the forensic examination unit isanother factor.All the searched digital devices from the criminals are notallowed to be switched on by the investigators alone because of the chance toaffect the evidence. The examination requires special forensic software andequipment to maintain the integrity of the evidence.7Itdemands CSTCB, the only department with adequate knowledge and tools, to handlethe digital evidence.
When all the digital exhibits go to CSTCB, we can imaginehow heavy their workload is. As we know, there are around two hundred staff inCSTCB. Other than those responsible for cyber patrolling, analyzing statistics,training and coordination, not many left for forensic verification.
It is usualto wait for months for the forensic examination to take place. The queuingsequence varies by the severity of the crime cases and according to the courtdate of the trial.Cyber-crime always require fast response on case handling tominimize the impact or loss. If there are more human resources put on the workof forensic verification, the digital evidence examination will be performedfaster to have an earlier investigation on the cyber-crime, thus reducing thefinancial loss every year.
Currently CSTCB opens recruitment once every 1-2years. It is obviously that the headcounts in this unit should be increased tomeet the rapid growth of technology crime rate. By the way, Anti-Deception-Coordination-Centre(ADCC) was established in July 2017 and set up a 24hours enquiry hotline “Anti-ScamHelpline18222” for the public to provide immediate consultation.8 Otherthan serving the public, the center also supports frontline units of the forcein handling suspicious deception cases.
They have tackled 200 frauds complaintsand successfully foiled 50 scams in the first two months of theirestablishment. The payments amount of sixty million Hong Kong dollars has beenhalted to local and international fraudsters.9 We can see that the police force has working hard to combattechnology crimes. However, the investigation work is getting harder thanexpect. Technology change rapidly in the past decade and we believe that itwill go even faster in the future. The police force must be prepared for thenew challenges in the cyber world.
Continuous training should be providedpinpointingto the newest technology and crime trend.Like other countries, analytical softwareis now used in Hong Kong toanalyze the criminal pattern, recognize theconnection between various cases and potentially predict the next crime.10Relevanttraining will be provided to the crime teams. If they can make good use of thesystem, it will help targeting the criminals more effectively. Compared to the traditionalreactive case handling, intelligence driven is the new trend for investigation.Onthe other hand, theexisting technology courses in the force is solely targetingparticular working fields such as the forensic team. Other police constables,after leaving the training school, may not have the chance to have proper trainingon the newest technology. Actually, every police should have up-to-dateknowledge on technology and increase their awareness of cyber security, forexample how to protect their personal information in cyber world and how to searchfor information they need through social platform11.
Thus, there is a need to provide regular on-job training or set up a channel toupdate all frontline officers with the hottestcyber issues.Enhancing thetechnology knowledge of the whole team is the way better equipping for futurechallenges. Theabove discussion shows the difficulties about dealing with technology crimesand there are only one unit handling digital forensic in Hong Kong. To recall, geographicallocationand perception of anonymity are challenges incyber-crime investigation.
Technical requirements on preserving integrity of digital evidence bringsconstrain to the case handling. Also, digital evidence always takes long timeto examine due to the limited resources. Though the force is doing a lot, it isalways difficult to enforce law with cyber-crime. Thus, I would say thetraditional law enforcement agencies in Hong Kong is yet equipped to deal withcyber-crime. We are here to recommend that more resources should be given to CSTCBto strengthen the forensic investigation team. Internal recruitment should beopened more frequently to attract more talents joining.
Although training acrime investigator into a professional forensic examiner may take lots of timeand money, this investment is worthyas they will become asset of the force.Also, technology trainingshould be offered from time-to-time to cover widerrange of positions within the police force. The law enforcement agencies shouldkeep updatingthemselves for the rapid changing cyber world. The way is still farto go.