More legal help to tackle cybercrime as MPs express worry over the growing problem

Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Lee said that the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act will be amended to help the police tackle cybercrime.
Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Lee said that the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act will be amended to help the police tackle cybercrime.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

SINGAPORE - While traditional crime rates have gone down, cybercrime has been on the rise - driven mainly by a surge in online cheating scams.

So to improve police's capability to tackle such illegal activity, laws such as the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act (CMCA) could be amended. Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Lee at the ministry's Committee of Supply debate on Wednesday said such amendments will better address the transnational nature of cybercrime and changing modus operandi of cyber criminals.

Mr Lee was responding to questions posed by Members of Parliament Desmond Choo, Christopher de Souza and Tan Wu Meng on steps taken to deal with this growing scourge.

"Cybercrime is a unique problem of the 21st century digital world," said Dr Tan. "Criminal masterminds can hide outside our borders, while making use of local henchmen to take advantage of unsuspecting Singaporeans."

Last year, the online credit-for-sex scam cases increased by 1,723 per cent, resulting in a loss of $2.9 million, added Mr Choo.

"We are witnessing a worrying trend towards more Singaporeans, especially the elderly, falling victim to online scams," he said.

The borderless nature of the Internet, together with the anonymity it provides to perpetrators, pose a special challenge to law enforcement agencies around the world in fighting cybercrime, Mr Lee said. Furthermore, many of the perpetrators are based overseas.

As such, "many of these investigations could lead to dead ends", despite close cross-border working relationships between law enforcement agencies.

When it comes to cybercrime, however, prevention is better than cure, he stressed.

He urged members of the public to be on their guard when they go online and the need for online shopping platforms to identify and remove fraudulent advertisers.

A new Cybercrime Command was also established last year by the Singapore Police Force to develop its capabilities in technology intelligence, forensics and investigations.