Cybercrime is a malignant reflection of the power of the virtual world, where communication is marked by speed, convenience and anonymity. The Internet, which has created beneficial economic and social possibilities unimaginable before its advent, has also inaugurated an era of criminal activities that know no physical or virtual boundaries. These cause real harm to victims around the world.
Drawing attention to the extent of the threat posed by cybercrime, Interpol, the world's largest international police organisation, reports its estimated cost to the global economy as running into billions of dollars.
In its advanced form, cybercrime involves attacks on computer hardware and software. The more common version is cyber-enabled crime, in which several traditional types of law-breaking - such as financial crimes, drug trafficking, child pornography and terrorism - exploit the instant connectivity of the Internet to expand their insidious reach.
Singapore's National Cybercrime Action Plan is an attempt to protect the country better in the virtual world. Piecemeal efforts are bound to fail as digital criminals are not easy to track down and prosecute and the risks will continue to multiply. Along with the rise of households with Internet access, the number of Singaporeans exposed to its unsuspected pitfalls, including online shoppers, has grown.
The 2016 Norton Cybersecurity Insights Report found that cybercrime victims in Singapore lost an average of $545 to cybercrime in the past year, higher than the global average. The anti-cybercrime plan represents a concerted effort to cover three essential fronts on the war on crime in cyberspace: deterrence, detection and disruption. A well-planned approach is necessary to foil the sophistication, persistence and often the coordination of cybercriminals, who prey on the relative ease with which individuals let their guard down in cyberspace.
Strengthening the law and implementing it effectively must remain at the forefront of a national effort. Singapore's plan envisages updating the legislative framework and upgrading the technological capabilities of the law-enforcement agencies. These are essential weapons against cybercriminals who believe that their anonymity shields them from capture and prosecution. But a national plan must also involve individual netizens. Many make themselves easy targets by not practising proper cyber hygiene. They should use a firewall, maintain strong passwords, update anti-virus software, and avoid unfamiliar links. Yet they typically use one computer for surfing, online banking, exchanging trivia and using confidential e-services. Self-protection is the best form of protection against cyber predators.