New CID unit to fight cybercrime

With love scams and online cheating cases on the rise, the police force will beef up its capabilities by setting up a unit called the Cybercrime Command, Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran said yesterday.

The unit will be part of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and specialise in cyber investigations, digital forensics and cybercrime policy, he said.

In addition, specialists in investigating such crimes, such as digital forensic officers, will be stationed at each of the six major police divisions across the island by the end of the year, he added.

"This will ensure that our frontline units are equipped with the necessary skills to investigate cybercrime cases," he said.

Enhancing capabilities is just one part of a three-pronged policing strategy that also involves tapping technology and partnering the community to tackle cybercrime.

Mr Iswaran, in Parliament yesterday, set out the approach in his reply to Mr Edwin Tong (Moulmein-Kallang GRC) and Mr Vikram Nair (Sembawang GRC), both of whom said such crimes had risen significantly.

Latest police statistics show that cheating cases involving e-commerce have more than tripled, from 510 cases in 2013 to 1,659 last year.

Internet love scams, which target mainly women, more than doubled from 81 in 2013 to 197 last year. And the amount the fraudsters stole reached $8.8 million, against $5.8 million, in the same period.

Mr Iswaran said while the crime of cheating is not new, the ubiquity and anonymity of the Internet have opened up a new avenue for criminals and syndicates to operate.

He said: "Individuals from all walks of life have fallen victim to these ruses, including well-educated and tech-savvy professionals.

"Police from all over the world are grappling with the difficulties of tracing, apprehending and bringing the perpetrators of cybercrime to justice, as well as to recover lost monies."

To combat this problem, the Home Affairs Ministry has stepped up its public education efforts and launched a website to increase people's awareness of common scams, he said. It will also find more ways to partner the community online, he added.

Social media, for instance, can be invaluable in crowdsourcing information to help police solve crimes, Mr Iswaran said.

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said there are about five million smartphone cameras in Singapore and almost a million vehicles on the road - an increasing number of them with cameras installed.

"The police will take a major step to improve its existing platforms for members of the public to send in videos on traffic violations and crime-related information," he added.

Ms Iswaran said the police will also work with Interpol's new Digital Crime Centre, based in Singapore, as well as international and regional law enforcement agencies to overcome the scourge of cybercrime.


This article was first published on Mar 7, 2015.
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