x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

'New law needed to tackle cyber criminals'

The rapid growth of the internet is being matched by similar advances in the criminal mindset, the Minister of Justice warns.

ABU DHABI // The rapid growth of the internet is being matched by similar advances in the criminal mindset, the Minister of Justice warned yesterday at a cyber crime conference. Dr Hadef bin Jua'an al Dhaheri said the law must be used to stop cyber criminals committing "all forms of crimes from killing, forgery and fraud to temptation and debauchery". He added that computers and IT had huge potential for good but, at the same time, were dangerous forces when used for "destruction, sabotage and crime".

Other speakers at the conference said tougher laws and international co-operation were needed to fight internet child pornography and other illegal activities. The audience heard that a harmonisation of law across international borders would help tackle criminals who often worked outside the country they were targeting. Speakers at the International Conference on Cyber Crime also identified stronger policing to prevent cyber crimes, and greater co-operation among international bodies to catch those who committed criminal acts online.

Dr Marco Gercke, a criminal law lecturer at the University of Cologne, said the international community had recognised that harmonisation of online law was the key to success and would make cross-border prosecution far easier. He cited the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime, an international agreement that has identified a set of core offences. However, he said police also needed the resources to catch such criminals.

"Compliance with international standards and having the right tools are crucial elements in the fight against such crimes. You can have the best laws that criminalise certain offences but if the police don't have tools to investigate cyber crime, they won't be able to identify the offenders," said Dr Gercke. He added that preventative measures, such as bank security codes and passwords, would not prevent many illegal internet activities, as criminals often found ways of circumventing security.

Dina Founes, the legal director of Microsoft Middle East and Africa, said the motivation of many cyber criminals had shifted from penetrating government networks to financial gain, targeting personal finances and defrauding people in elaborate internet schemes. Another challenge for police was a lack of co-operation between the private sector, which provides internet services, and the public sector which enforces the law. Mrs Founes said this problem could result in obstacles during investigations.

"Internet providers may not be able to provide information without a court order," she said, adding that appropriate legislation provided a framework for the police and companies to co-operate nationally as well as internationally. She said that besides the Budapest Convention, a model presented by the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children legislation to ensure the online safety of children and prevent child pornography, should be followed internationally.

"In short, we have achieved great success in fighting against cyber crime through efforts such as the initiative of Budapest, but our goal is to keep up our fight against cyber crime to make computers safe and secure. "As technology continues to evolve and cyber criminals are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, we must remain focused and one step ahead. Partnership between industry and law enforcement alongside meaningful laws are critical to ensure that we stay ahead of cyber criminals."

hhassan@thenational.ae * additional reporting WAM