|Honourable Minister of Justice and Public Order, Representative of the President of the Republic of Cyprus,
Honourable Representative of the President of the House of Parliament,
Honourable Representatives of Parliamentary Parties,
Honourable Attorney General,
Honourable Head of Representation of European Commission in Cyprus,
Honourable Members of Parliament,
Chief of the National Guard of Cyprus,
Dear Conference Attendees,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and an honour to have such a wide-ranging and prominent audience at our third international conference, which this year concentrates on cybercrime trends and threats.
Prior to embarking upon my address, allow me to thank the chair of the conference Mr. Nigel Jones, from Canterbury Christ Church University. Also, I would like to thank all the speakers from Cepol, Europol, European Commission, Council of Europe, FBI, OLAF, European Cybercrime Training and Education Group, German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation, Gardia Di Finanza, Facebook, National Computer Security Incidence Response Team, Cyprus Police, and freelancers. Furthermore, I would like to thank all the delegates and attendees from the international and local domain. Last but not least, I would like to thank his Excellency the President of the Republic of Cyprus, Mr. Nikos Anastasiades, who has brought under his aegis the organization of the Conference.
Ladies and gentlemen, today’s information age has brought a host of changes to all strands of life. Likewise, crime has undergone unprecedented transformations of which, cybercrime constitutes a vivid example. Undeniably, the incidence of illegal acts occurring through the internet, cell phones, and other information communication technologies have, especially in post-modern societies, outnumbered the illegal acts occurring in physical spaces. According to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies and McAfee, cybercrime costs to the world economy almost 600 billion dollars annually. Reportedly, it is estimated that cybercrime currently affects two out of three people connected to the internet. Furthermore, it is estimated that three hundred thousand to one million viruses and other malicious software products are created and launched against targets in a single day. Of course, cybercrime rates vary by region, however, these facts testify to the extensive degree to which digital crimes have presently advanced.
As it applies to all criminal activities, owing to the fact that a plethora of individuals are willing and able to undertake such activities on-line and, also, since many individuals and companies can easily be victimised, coupled with the absence of protective guardians, cybercrime is rendered a highly lucrative and proliferating type of crime. Indeed, cybercrime is a low-risk crime because of its desk-based, remote, and clandestine nature. Also, it is a high-profit crime because of the myriad profitable as well as vulnerable targets available across the globe.Unfortunately, these very facts appear to incentivize particular individuals. Indeed, digital perpetrators are all the more exploiting the increasing opportunities created by cryptocurrencies, cloud services, poorly-protected devices, artificial intelligence, and the like. Also, cybercriminals exploit the inability of the authorities to detect most digital crimes, much less to investigate. It is of no secret that notwithstanding the effort invested and resources allocated by law enforcement agencies across the globe towards prosecuting cybercriminals, the preponderance of them are far beyond our reach. Truly, there are many e-criminals whose skills and knowledge far exceed the capacity of law enforcement agencies. However, there is also a great number of cybercriminals who use rudimentary methods and technology for fulfilling their illicit purposes.
More to the point, a great lump of cyber offences involve traditional crimes.Much like traditional crimes, cybercrime comprises violations and offences against property, physical and legal persons, public order, morals, and national security, among other. However, whether or not computers are used either or both as a target and tool, the very circumstances in which e-crimes are executed render the investigation of the latter rather challenging. By way of illustration, a Nigerian scam is no different than the offence of fraud by false representation, where culprits dishonestly make false representations in order to make a gain for themselves. Equally, the distribution of malware is not far from the offence of damaging property, where the offender intentionally destroys or damages property that belongs to another. Yet, what really differentiates the two forms of crime is not the intention and the result of the act, but the very method of conducting the act. The surreptitious and distant act, whose transnational, multi-levelled, and transient digital footprints are many times hard to trace down, much less to record.
As a law enforcement agency, the Cyprus Police has a key role in preventing of and fighting cybercrime. Its two main units namely, the Office for Combating Cybercrime and the Digital Evidence Forensic Laboratory are staffed with specialised and skilful officers who, with the aid of advanced software and hardware, collect forensic evidence and pursue criminal investigations on cybercrimes in general, and hacking and digital child pornography in particular. The Cyprus Police is constantly seeking ways to further develop its anti-cybercrime capacity and thus, in the near future it will establish a Special Operations Unit. The establishment of this Unit will be based on the British model of Special Operations Unit, and will be vectored towards fighting organised crime, terrorism, and cybercrime. That said, in the near future, the Office for Combating Cybercrime, being under the Special Operations Unit, will receive even more resources and as a result of which, will be more effective in investigating all sorts of cybercrime, as well as in policing in real time the web, by the assignment of web-constables.
Nevertheless, it is worth noting that cybercriminal activities are not restricted to small scale attacks, but may extend against an entire nation. For instance, hybrid threats and attacks targeting states’ decision making mechanisms and infrastructure can be materialised by a collective and methodical abuse of digital tools by enemy states. Fake news can be spread by manipulated social media, stock markets can be influenced by adverse external pressures, and communications can be nullified by cyberattacks, for bringing the current state of affairs of a nation under destruction.
Moreover, cybercrime can involve perplexed scenarios. Assume that a crime occurs in a virtual world such as Second Life between two out of the one million avatars who virtually reside in that world, and as a result an avatar suffers monetary loss in Linden dollars. How are we to investigate such crime? A crime which happens in a virtual world between virtual personas, yet with tangible losses incurred by humans in being, since Linden dollars are exchangeable by real persons with real life currencies. Such illustrations form only a tiny part of what lies ahead of us. Precisely, this is why law enforcement agencies must not only maintain, but also enhance their ties with private organisations and entities that facilitate the prevention and combating of cybercrime.
Ladies and gentlemen, though what we currently experience as cybercrime is only the tip of the iceberg, there is plenty of room to consolidate our efforts into protecting our societies from the cybercrime pandemic. That is why we have gathered here today, to discuss the issue of cybercrime and explore the prospect of developing new countermeasures to the former.
Evidently, the World Wide Web has developed way beyond the extents Sir Timothy John Berners originally envisioned. However, the point is not how far we have reached as humanity, but what are we going to do about it, in order to ensure that current and imminent developments such as the Internet of Things and the Fourth Industrial Revolution do not pose a threat to public order and safety. After all, it is us, the law enforcement agencies on which citizens rest upon for protecting them from both conventional and unconventional threats.
Once again, I hope you will make the most of your presence here, and for those who had to travel overseas, may you have a very pleasant stay at the island of Cyprus. Thank you.