E-crime centre to fight cyber-crims

Police struggle to keep on top of technology-related crime

New Zealand Police plan TO SET up a high-tech crime reporting centre, in partnership with other government agencies, such as CCIP (Centre for Critical Infrastructure Protection) and DIA (Department of Internal Affairs), says Maarten Kleintjes, head of the New Zealand Police Electronic Crime Laboratory.

Industry partners, such as banks, telcos, credit cards companies and ISPs, will also be involved. The centre will deal with complaints proactively, he says.

The plans also include establishing a dedicated cyber crime unit, as Kleintjes’ team of 12 police officers with technology expertise can’t keep on top of the ever-increasing volume of work. The first stage of the centre will be complete in December.

“This needs to happen,” he says. “The police have difficulty with having sufficient [technology] knowledge within the police force to deal with [high-tech] crimes.”

New Zealand Police are “certainly up there with the rest” in fighting e-crime, says Kleintjes. But it is hard to keep up with the growth of technology-related crime. To keep on top of it, the police have developed tools that allow officers to examine, for example, a hard drive without having to be a forensic expert.

“Of course, there are cases where forensic expertise is still required, but in 80% of the cases, [detectives] could search [for example] a hard drive themselves and that would reduce our workload considerably,” he says.

As to how well the law keeps track of the relatively young phenomenon of e-crime, Kleintjes says that there are now specific computer crime charges. Previously, offenders would be charged with “abuse of the telephone line” when they had actually broken into someone’s computer overseas, he says. However, the police require more legislative changes.

“We need to be able to search a computer from a remote location,” he says. “We want to be able to search computers in cyber space. If the crook has access to information [on a remote computer] we should be legally allowed to search it, regardless of its location.”

Another issue is that search warrants for electronic devices don’t cover over-riding passwords, so the providers of electronic devices are not required by law to give the over-riding password to the police. Providers often refuse to give up the password, but offer to look through the device themselves, and if they find something suspicious, to hand it over to the police, Kleintjes says.

“It is an absurd situation, and it needs to change.” The police are currently in discussions with the Law Commission regarding these issues.

Phishing, trojans and sophisticated methods of ATM skimming are common e-crime offences, Kleintjes says. Cyber bullying and cyber harassment are increasing — and not just among texting teenagers, but across the board, he says.

The e-crime unit also often investigates transnational crime that might involve traffic being filtered through New Zealand, but without the victims or offenders being in New Zealand. He says that cooperation between international police agencies is good, which is essential when fighting crime in the borderless cyber world.

There are things people can do to avoid becoming victims of e-crimes such as ATM skimming and phishing scams. Choose a bank that has robust security in place, says Kleintjes, and make sure that your own computer has updated security software and firewalls. It’s also a good idea to keep two computers at home — one for dealing with less secure matters and one for email, online banking and other secure actions.

Wireless networks are a huge risk, especially for travellers, Kleintjes says. Hotels, for example, usually don’t set up encryption because it is too complicated.

“If you have got encryption on your wireless network you have got some protection,” he says. “But, if you are using the wireless network in a hotel, for example, everything goes past in plain text. Anybody that can receive the signal from your laptop can see [all the data]. They don’t even need to decrypt it.”

He recommends travellers use a 3G device instead.

“Stick with the cable network, if you can,” he says. “But if you have a home wireless network, enable encryption on it.”

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Tags wirelessphishingcyber crimeencryption3gpolicecyber bullyingtrojanATM skimminge-crime

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