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Cybercrime poses a major threat

Source: Bangkok Post
Date: August 05, 2003

Cybercrime Some of today's most pernicious and dangerous criminals are armed with that most up-to-date of weapons _ the computer. Last week in Bangkok, members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation e-Security Task Group pinpointed the fastest growing crime in the Pacific region. Their solution is for nations to write laws that mesh with those of other countries, and to cooperate publicly against cybercrime. It is a sensible recommendation. The question is whether Apec members will adopt it.
International traffickers and smugglers, terrorists and criminal gangs have harnessed parts of the internet and high technology for their violence and crimes. In ``cyberspace'' there are no clear borders. Worse, there are huge differences between national laws. A criminal can sit in one country and commit a felony in another, and store or send his ill-gotten profits in a third.

Two reports issued while the Apec delegates were busy in Bangkok highlighted the dangers that society faces from cybercrime. At the continuing trials of the accused Bali bombers, there was testimony on how the Oct 12, 2002 terrorist attack was financed. Wire transfers from the Middle East, arranged by a Jemaah Islamiyah agent in Singapore, reportedly came to the planners of the operation as they were hiding out in Bangkok.

The Global Economic Crime Survey 2003 by PricewaterhouseCoopers focused on Asia. The firm reported that cybercrime accounted for more economic crimes than any other type last year. Its survey showed 47% of businesses in Asia suffered some sort of economic crime last year _ 30% of it cybercrime. The big three also included corruption and bribery, which affected 27%, and product piracy, which hit 24%. More surprisingly, big businesses suffered from cybercrime only slightly more than smaller firms. Bank robberies by hackers were one major crime, but embezzlement by accountants was common.

Since the publicised theft of thousands of Bangkok credit card records by a European teenager several years ago, hacking has become more common. Internet-connected computers pose a temptation that criminals and terrorists find hard to resist. Last week, a Chinese web site published details of a security hole in the Microsoft Windows system, and within days hackers started to employ it.

The Apec delegates discussed cases like this. A hacker in Bangkok, using the internet, spends a few days or weeks setting up ``robot'' computers with malicious, virus-like software _ an easy task these days for even barely computer literate people, thanks to instructions on the world wide web. He then launches an attack to deny service and shut down the computers of a major firm with headquarters in Singapore, New York and Sydney. Who arrests him, and on what charges? Indeed, under today's law there is confusion over whether the Bali bombers even broke the law by financing their atrocity through international financial centres while in Bangkok. Clearly, there must be laws to criminalise such activities. It is unacceptable in the computer age that such criminals could get away with illegal, harmful behaviour because a country failed to pass a law which is obviously needed. But it is important, as the Apec meeting made clear, that the national laws agree with one another. That achieves two aims. One is that harmonised laws make clear what is illegal and allow enforcement everywhere. The other is that officials can easily cooperate across borders, and reach out to crush criminals.

We will all hear a lot about Apec meetings and goals this year, because Thailand will host the majority. But cybercrime is an issue that deserves a place at the climactic Apec summit in October. In the wrong hands, a computer keyboard can hurt more than a gun or a bomb.

Original article: http://www.bangkokpost.com/News/05Aug2003_news41.html

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