More punch in cybercrime fight

Cyber criminals are on the prowl and targeting people from all walks of life.
Cyber criminals are on the prowl and targeting people from all walks of life.PHOTO: AFP

Govt announces new national plan to tackle growing threat of criminals in digital space

Cyber criminals are on the prowl, targeting potential victims as diverse as children, the youth and the elderly as well as businesses.

To tackle this growing threat, Singapore will consolidate its multiple efforts against criminals in the digital space under a National Cybercrime Action Plan, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday.

"Around the world today, every aspect of our lives are plugged into the Internet and cloud (computing)... But the more connected we are, the more vulnerable we become to cyber criminals," he added.

"It goes beyond financial loss, to include drug trafficking, child pornography and many other illegal activities," he said, citing the recent case of British paedophile Richard Huckle, who hid pornographic images and videos of at least 23 children using the dark Web. The dark Web is a hard-to-access part of the Internet often used for illegal activity.

The minister was speaking at the opening of this year's RSA Conference Asia-Pacific and Japan. Those who attended included government officials and industry experts.

A key tenet of the plan will be to educate people on how to stay safe in cyberspace, and this will be tailored to suit vulnerable groups like youth and the elderly, he said.

For instance, the revamped Scam Alert website launched yesterday will now be a one-stop resource portal to combat online scams.

Besides providing information on the latest scam methods, it will also be a platform for the public to share personal experiences of scam encounters. Jointly developed by the police and National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), this will help officers identify cybercrime trends.

Mr Shanmugam said the NCPC will be launching a virtual children's game called Cyro later this year to further push out these messages. The plan will also emphasise tie-ups with industry experts to develop new capabilities.

For instance, the Ministry of Home Affairs is working with the private sector to develop malware analysis tools to carry out cybercrime case assessments effectively.

"Singapore is a potential hub for cyber criminals, and small and medium-sized enterprises are most vulnerable. They tend to focus on traditional detection tools, due to limited resources and yet, the nature of malware has evolved," said Athena Dynamics chief executive Ken Soh.

The ministry is also working with Temasek Polytechnic to develop and test cyber security innovations at its new Temasek Advanced Learning, Nurturing and Testing Laboratory (Talent Lab).

Interpol secretary-general Jurgen Stock, speaking on the sidelines of the event, said: "What makes Singapore so interesting is its dynamic and innovative environment, where we can easily connect with tech companies and academia."

The Interpol Global Complex for Innovation - which is located in Singapore - pools the resources of government agencies and industry experts from around the world.

Another focus of the plan will see law enforcement agencies tapping on the latest technology to fight cybercrime. This includes the police force's Digital Evidence Search Tool, which is able to automate the forensic processing of huge amounts of data for digital evidence.

Such efforts will have to be supported by a robust criminal justice framework, in which laws are reviewed often, to ensure that they are relevant and effective.

In April, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs Desmond Lee said the Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act will be amended. MHA said it will also review laws such as the Criminal Procedure Code.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2016, with the headline 'More punch in cybercrime fight'. Print Edition | Subscribe