TACKLING CYBER CRIMES

(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
June 7 - 13, 2010

The last century was labelled as the Century of Technology and Advancement. Today, billions of people press the ENTER key to check their emails but they never bother to think about the backend mechanics behind this luxury.

However, there exists a breed of human beings who do ponder about the mechanics behind the buttons. They walk the World Wide Web trying to get through all the barriers that block their path. They are the pirates of the new age.

For instance, a consumer who gets lured by an auction site may later find that he was the victim of a cyber scheme, which may have, in fact, involved SPAM and unsolicited e-mail inviting him to a site or a "spoofed" website which only imitated the true legitimate site. Every day, internet users are up against a new menace with new and ingenious deceptions that create all the confusions in cyber space.

In the 1980s, most hackers committed fraud to get a username and password for a computer account and then logged on to the computer without proper authorisation. They browsed through files, copying some, deleting or altering others. Such work does not require any knowledge of computer programming, just a rudimentary understanding of a few operating system commands.

Since 2000, authors of malicious programs use resources readily available on the Internet to create a "new" computer virus or worm, or launch a denial of a service attack. Again, such activities do not demonstrate a high level of proficiency in computer programming. Over time, new types of cyber crimes have been invented and are a threat to our privacy, security and reputation.

Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise that less advanced countries have a lower rate of cyber crime. On the other hand, they can also be the breeding grounds for cyber criminals who take advantage of all the unchecked opportunities available to them. An example would be the kidnapping of a foreign journalist, whose captors would start sending emails to newspapers.

In Pakistan there is a strong need for training and development in the area of cyber crime to curb the potential threat. With the increase in use of cyberspace by scrupulous elements, cyber crime investigation is also becoming a priority area for the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), which is closely collaborating with a number of organisations to elevate its capacity to cope with the menace.

The cooperation moved a step further when cybercrime specialists from the Council of Europe (COE) visited Pakistan on behalf of Microsoft to train technical experts and investigators of the FIA Cyber crimes Division. The 3-day workshop titled, 'Cyber Forensic Investigation' focused on transferring knowledge and skills on vigilance, management of cyber crime violations and threats and the creation of a strong defence against cyber crime activities.

The training was co-sponsored by the Council of Europe and Microsoft Pakistan as part of the promotion of global harmonisation of legislation on the basis of the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime. Legislation measures in Pakistan have also been influenced by this Convention

Zafarullah Khan, Director General FIA, fully understands the urgent need to curb cyber crime in Pakistan. He says: "It is imperative that security agencies like the FIA have the ability to understand, track, analyse and prevent cyber crime proactively. This needs consistent upgrades in our technical and investigative resources. The FIA is grateful to Microsoft and Council of Europe for providing the opportunity to its officers to benefit from the latest technical and investigative practices in the field."

FIA has established the National Response Center for Cyber Crime (NR3C) in Pakistan as a platform to tackle cyber crime in the country. NR3C has a team of technical experts who are dedicated to detecting, analysing and neutralising cyber threats before they affect the wider expanse of society.

Some 100 FIA participants of the NR3C unit attended the workshop on 'Cyber Forensic Investigation' which concluded with a roundtable session where senior officials of FIA, Microsoft and COE were present.

"The nature of cyber crime is dynamic and we need to be updated on every front. Given the scale of threats, it is imperative for every society and government to be conscious of and be prepared for managing this threat. Through this agreement and training, we will be able to create a more focused and proactive approach towards dealing with cybercrime," said Kamal Ahmed, Country Manager Microsoft Pakistan.

Despite the progress being made by the government and private sector, strong and specific regulations need to be implemented for the deterrence of cyber crime. Pakistan must prepare itself to face the increasing threat of this new category of crime to ensure the positive use of the cyber technology.