Computer Crime Research Center


Fighting crime with a click of a mouse

Date: July 07, 2008

Instead of a pistol, Pol Lt-Col Panya Chaaimtet arms himself with a computer notebook. He is more agile manoeuvring a mouse, hunting for criminals on the internet, than handling a conventional weapon.

He and a colleague, Pol Maj Mingmontri Siripong, helped secure the arrest on June 10 of Boonyarit Arunsap, webmaster of, a pornographic website.

The website, which initially served as a public forum for internet users, was found to contain many lewd photos.

Police charged Mr Boonyarit with allowing the posting of sexually obscene content for commercial purposes. He claims his website users posted them, not him.

He could be fined up to 100,000 baht and jailed for up to five years under the 2008 Computer Crime Act.

Police believe there are 300 Thai-based porn websites. They are unlikely to catch all the culprits, though the force has specialist investigators such as Pol Lt-Col Panya and his colleague whose job is to track them down.

Pol Lt-Col Panya and Pol Maj Mingmontri work as cyber police for the Crimes against Children, Juveniles and Women Suppression Division.

Pol Lt-Col Panya describes the internet as a place "where criminals can be identified, but cannot easily be found".

They admit they are inferior to cyber criminals in terms of technology.

Often, even when they do manage to track down evidence, it cannot be used to identify wrongdoers.

"To prove to a court that a cyber criminal is this or that person is difficult," said Pol Maj Mingmontri.

Some webmasters use fake names when they rent space on computer servers to store picture and text files. Others deny being the website owners, or try to cover their tracks on the Web by using internet cafes.

Cyber police can track down offenders via the IP (internet protocol) address of their computer. That address usually points to the user's phone number, registered with the stated-owned TOT or CAT companies.

Some webmasters running porn sites use public computers to better disguise their identity.

The owners of porn sites usually turn up late at night and use the computers for hours at a time, Pol Lt-Col Panya said. Internet shop owners have been asked to report any suspicious activity.

Police focus their crackdown on webmasters who create, organise, and maintain the websites, because the number of ordinary internet users who post obscene pictures is so big that they cannot arrest them all, Pol Maj Mingmontri said.

Both webmasters and internet users who post such photos on public forums are considered wrongdoers under the Computer Crime Act, and can be fined or jailed.

Police can start investigations into websites which distribute sexually explicit photos for commercial purposes themselves, or as as soon as they receive complaints from victims.

"We can look for clues left in the email of webmasters," said Pol Lt-Col Panya.

His team is keeping a close watch on 10 websites which sell sexually obscene photos by working with companies which provide mobile phone services.

Clients send messages at a price of 15 baht to them, and in return they get user names and passwords to gain access to the pornographic sites.

He said police do not aim to arrest the owners of all porn websites, as there are too many. They target the large ones, in the hope that if they can arrest their owners, the smaller ones might be frightened into closing.

However, police cannot get access to information on webmasters who register with servers in foreign countries.

The cyber crimes division does not require a big budget, as police do not have to leave the office to catch offenders. But the rising number of criminals on the internet does cause them concern.

"It is increasing at a rate that makes the number of our year-round arrests look small," Pol Lt-Col Panya said.

The crackdown can at least frighten some website owners into stopping. Others protect their websites by restricting access to adults users. This blocks underage visitors from entering, he said.

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