Extremist websites cited as threats by Masagos

EVEN as terrorism remains a pressing challenge for countries in the region, the online presence of an estimated 6,000 extremist websites makes the threat of self-radicalisation and "lone-wolf" attacks "a newer significant concern", said Second Minister for Home Affairs Masagos Zulkifli.

Speaking at the biennial Interpol Asian Regional Conference yesterday, Mr Masagos cited terrorist incidents in Sydney last December, in Paris in January, and in Copenhagen in February, as "stark examples of recent terrorist attacks and atrocities".

Tackling terrorism requires "collective inter-agency and international efforts", said Mr Masagos, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs.

"Forging strong partnerships is essential to enable the flow of information and intelligence to facilitate collaboration across countries," he said.

In his address to over 160 representatives of law enforcement agencies from 31 Interpol countries, Mr Masagos also spoke on other key security threats in the region, including drug production and trafficking, counterfeiting and human trafficking.

With advances in technology, the reach of criminals has "expanded tremendously", he added.

Said Mr Masagos: "The sale of counterfeit medicine, for example, can now be easily pushed using the Internet and convenient courier services."

Criminals have also been going online to facilitate trafficking for sexual exploitation. The estimated annual earnings of transnational organised crime groups in the Asia-Pacific is US$360 billion (S$490 billion). The digital space is also increasingly becoming the preferred mode of crime, he said.

And with critical infrastructure such as power plants highly reliant on computers, he said the cyber attack last week on French television network TV5Monde by hackers claiming to support the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria "is a stern reminder of our public platforms' vulnerabilities".

Mr Masagos said the Interpol Global Complex for Innovation in Napier Road would strengthen the global network of cybercrime investigators by setting global standards and protocols in cybercrime investigations and forensics. The closed-door Interpol event was held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

amirh@sph.com.sg