Interpol presence strategic to Singapore cybercrime purge

With opening of new Interpol complex in 2014, local police can better leverage global intelligence to manage high-tech crimes and set relevant cybersecurity policies, says observer.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor

The opening of the Interpol Global Complex in Singapore will boost the city-state's efforts to curb cybercrime, as local law enforcement personnel can collaborate more closely with the international police organization as well as tap global intelligence for tackling high-tech crimes, in particular, and formulate the appropriate cybersecurity policies.

Set to commence operations in 2014, the facility will house the development of "innovation-based capacity building packages", focusing on technology-enabled crime and policing solutions to assist the international policing community in combating crime, the Singapore Police Force (SPF) told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview.

According to Interpol's Web site, the complex will also be a venue to carry out innovative research and development to enhance forensics and data capabilities, for example in the area of biometrics and advanced database technology. It is also, as one of three nodes of a Global Command and Coordination Center, expected to assist in 24/7 operational police support.

Asked what was housed in the complex, Interpol General Secretariat said that there would be "a range of activities including exchanging information on recent trends in cybercrime, enhancing operational cooperation among member countries through periodic meetings, and creating materials for regional law enforcement agencies"--essential to tackle a crime which had no boundaries.

The Secretariat added that the facility will enhance Interpol's capabilities to tackle crime threats of the 21st century and strengthen international policing globally. Interpol will work with its member countries and other partners to identify areas and resources to develop in its Global Complex.

Edison Yu, industry manager at Frost & Sullivan, noted that Interpol's physical presence in Singapore would allow the SPF to work even more closely with the international body and enable local authorities to better leverage the global intelligence that Interpol provides in their understanding of criminal organizations.

The development, he said, is significant given Singapore's growing status as a key business hub and the large number of global enterprises setting up offices in the country. "The collaboration with Interpol will also enable the Singapore Police Force to gain a strategic viewpoint toward the cybercriminals in terms of their organizational make-up and operational DNA, so as to better protect against them and ensure that the authorities are always a step ahead."

Yu added that the know-how and intelligence gathered through the potentially more intimate collaboration would eventually provide the Singapore government with better insights to drive future policies or legislations in the area of cybersecurity.

Warming up to closer ties
Already, the two organizations have taken their collaboration to a new level. Interpol and SPF co-organized for the first time a two-day Cyber Security Training Workshop in Singapore on Jul. 6 and 7, where experts from both the law enforcement and private sectors came together to share the latest information and practical demonstrations of techniques to address cybercrime.

"The successful completion of the workshop where best countermeasure practices were shared amongst the attendees signifies rapid progress being made in the joint venture toward combating the ills of cybercrime at the global level, and ensures that we are always one step ahead of cybercriminals," said the SPF spokesperson.

The SPF added that it was looking forward to collaborate further with Interpol and its member countries in tackling cybercrime, adding that criminals have exploited the Internet's borderless nature by taking their activities online. However, it could not comment on any upcoming cybercrime initiatives with Interpol.

"Cybercriminals are now increasingly able to operate from anywhere in the world, often guised behind the anonymity of cyberspace," the SPF spokesperson said. "With these challenges posed, establishing strong alliance with law enforcement agencies worldwide, thus represents an essential component in combating cybercrime."

On the cybercrime scene in Singapore, the SPF spokesperson said the situation was "well under control" but noted an increase in e-mail phishing scams where Internet users are deceived into revealing their e-mail account information and password. In such scenarios, the accounts are hijacked by the attackers who would then send e-mail messages to the victim's friends and relatives to trick them into revealing sensitive information or parting with their money.

He added that the SPF would continue to monitor the cybercrime situation closely to ensure that cybercriminals have little chance to "set up shop in Singapore".

"Besides forging strong alliances with law enforcers worldwide, the SPF, also works closely with various key stakeholders in pushing out crime prevention programs to the community," said the spokesperson.

Industry involvement essential
Graham Titterington, principal analyst at Ovum, pointed out that global collaboration is necessary when it came to cybercrime. However, partnerships between police organizations are not enough, as law enforcement tends to react more slowly than cybercriminals, particularly when different countries have to work together, he noted.

"The job of protecting against cyberattacks has to be largely done by the industry, particularly the ISPs (Internet service providers) and major security vendors," he said.

"However, law enforcement has a role in apprehending large organized crime syndicates and this involves gathering and sharing information on a global basis."

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